Penelope Trunk, The Power of Mentors

penelopetrunkI’m really excited to be talking today with Penelope Trunk, who writes what is probably the world’s leading career blog. Her posts are fascinating, provocative and always well researched, but often go counter to what you might expect. So they’re really terrific, insightful pieces.

Penelope has had three start-ups, and recently released an e-book called The Power of Mentors: How to Find and How to Learn from Great Mentors. Given her depth of knowledge and expertise, I thought it would be great to talk with her about why mentoring is so important.

In this interview, Penelope and I discuss:

  • Why finding a good mentor is one of the best ways to ensure career success
  • The difference between a coach and a mentor
  • How to attract a mentor and create a mutually beneficial relationship
  • The difference between good and bad questions
  • Why it’s important to nurture multiple mentoring relationships
  • Why mentors can be more valuable than heroes

(Scroll down for more in-depth podcast notes.)

Listen to my interview with Penelope Trunk.

0:01:40: Penelope explains that having a mentor is similar to having family and friends, in that they’re on your team and they support you, but that a mentor goes further by offering work-related advice relevant to your career. She points out that the quality of one’s mentor is the second most important factor in determining career success, after the quality of one’s upbringing and education.

0:02:50: Michael asks Penelope to distinguish between a coach and a mentor. She explains that a mentor is someone with a long-term and personal interest in your success, whereas a coach is paid to offer short-term support.

0:04:56: Michael and Penelope discuss some of the barriers to finding a mentor. They agree that it must be a mutually beneficial relationship in order for it to work.

0:06:46: Penelope explains that the best way to attract a good mentor is to ask good questions and make sure to implement the mentor’s advice.

0:07:42: Michael and Penelope discuss what makes a question good vs. bad. Penelope suggests that a good question is specific and within the mentor’s field of expertise.

0:10:16: Penelope elaborates on how to build and maintain a successful relationship with a mentor. She points out that it’s important to do what they say and to keep up consistent interactions.

0:11:22: Michael asks Penelope how many mentors she tries to maintain at one time. She replies that it’s important to try to nurture mentoring relationships with several people, because they don’t always work out. She adds that it’s a good idea to always have at least three solid, long-term mentors, each of whom can offer something different.

0:13:16: Michael and Penelope discuss the merits of having a “Jedi council” or famous hero vs. a mentor you know personally. They agree that a mentor offers an intimacy and honesty that isn’t available simply by reading an expert’s book, and that it’s important to find a mentor who lives life the way you want to.

0:15:45: Penelope notes that it’s important to have a mentor throughout every phase of one’s career, including retirement, and laments that schools don’t do a better job of teaching youth how to find a mentor.

0:17:47: Michael wraps up by directing people to Penelope’s blog and other resources for more of her insights and career advice.

Leave a Reply