It’s the start of a new semester and, for some, a new beginning. Some students are starting their college journey this month, whether as a new or transfer from another institution. The college journey can be hard. Sometimes, we want to seek out guidance from those further ahead in their walk. Sometimes, it’s fruitful. They break down the game to you in an entirely different way and give you someone to aspire to. But, often, we get mentorship wrong. Some folks become “mentors” just to feel a sense of self-importance. Others are predatory, trying to come off as a guide then finesse their way into more. However, a large number of people don’t need to be mentors simply because they don’t deserve to be. Someone told me once, “How can you mentor someone and you never go to class?” Well, I’ll take it a step further. How can you mentor someone and you can’t even lead yourself down the right path?
Mentorship should be sacred. It should be taken just as seriously as choosing to become romantically involved with someone. So, let’s talk about a couple of signs that clearly show you that your mentor is toxic. Let’s hit this one off top: you don’t ask someone if you could be their mentor. That’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard in my life and I’ll argue about it. Asking someone to be your mentee is almost like a man getting proposed to by his girlfriend. It’s just not how things work. The burden to ask is on the mentee. They should build the level of trust in you to guide them along their road to success. They should trust your intellect and judgement enough to ask you if you could be their mentor. If you’re asking to be their mentor, clearly they don’t see that in you. Fall back, you’re embarrassing yourself!
Another obvious sign someone isn’t fit to be a mentor is if they’re treating you like a drill sergeant. Mentorship is not a process. You should respect your mentee enough to treat them like an equal, not as if you’re superior to them. I remember I was speaking to a freshman my last year as an Orientation Leader at my HBCU Fort Valley State University. We were talking about this exact same topic and she said, “Randall, how old are you?” I responded, “I’m 22.” She nodded and responded, “I have a brother that’s 26 years old and he doesn’t talk to me like some of these upperclassmen have been.” That was powerful to me. It’s all about respect. If the mentor doesn’t respect the mentee, that’s a toxic power dynamic. And, if you catch the right mentee wrong, they might knock some respect into you.
All in all, shout out to everyone serving as mentors that are taking their mentees to higher heights. However, a lot of y’all don’t need to say the word mentor, let alone be one to someone. And that’s just my thoughts on today.