Mentorship: A Double-Edged Sword

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When a person decides to take the first step from being simply a cat-lover to breeding and showing pedigreed cats, one of the first things they will want to do is learn more about all the ins-and-outs of the cat fancy. With so much to learn, often a person will look for a person willing to act as their mentor . . .

What Is A Mentor?

Mentor can have many meanings:

  • A trusted friend
  • A counselor
  • A teacher
  • A more experienced person

Some professions have "mentoring programs" in which newcomers are paired with a more experienced person in order to obtain good examples and advice as they advance in their careers. Similarly, schools sometimes have mentoring programs for new students or students who are having difficulties.

Mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. Many of the world's most successful people have benefited from having a mentor.

The student of a mentor is called a protégé, mentoree or mentee.

In An Ideal  World

If the world were perfect, the new cat breeder would be taken under the wing of a knowledgeable, experienced cat fancier who would have excellent teaching skills combined with unbounded information, generosity and patience.

In an ideal world, the newcomer would educate themselves well before ever purchasing their first cat. The "newbie" would have an unquenchable desire to learn, a good study ethic and a great appreciation for all help and information given.

Mentorship has many advantages for both the mentor and their protégé. The mentor has the satisfaction of passing on their knowledge, the pride of seeing their pupil progress, the ego-stroke of being looked up to and appreciated. The mentee is given the advantage of information and wisdom beyond their own experience.

But a mentorship can also be a double-edged sword, with the possibility of pitfalls for both the mentor and mentee being real possibilities unless both parties enter the relationship with their eyes wide open.

Challenges For The Mentor

There are undeniable pitfalls to being a mentor.

  • You may care more about teaching than your protégé cares about learning.
  • There may be times you feel unappreciated, especially if the Mentee discards your advice.
  • Any mistake the Mentee makes may be taken as a reflection on you, even if you had nothing to do with their particular actions.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

  • Do not allow the Mentee to act like a needy child.
  • Be prepared to allow and encourage the Mentee to outgrow their need for mentorship.
  • Do not take offence if your protégé chooses not to take your advice.
  • Set boundaries in the relationship. Try not to fall into a relationship that mimics that of a parent-child.
  • It can be seductive to have a newbie look up to you for advice and council. Don't let it go to your head or demand that all your advice be followed.
  • Have an open mind.
  • The natural progression of the relationship should be from teacher-student to friendship. Be prepared and encouraging towards that end.

Challenges For The Mentee

There are also undeniable pitfalls to being a Mentee.

  • When you become associated with a specific Mentor, you will tend to be adopted by their friends — but also ostracized by their "enemies" .
  • When you establish a teacher-student relationship, it is often difficult to stretch beyond that.
  • You limit yourself to the knowledge and ideas adopted by the Mentor.
  • You often are limited for a choice of Mentor by seeking the convenience of someone in your own local area.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

  • Take responsibility for your own education. Gain/Seek knowledge from other sources besides your Mentor.
  • Be able to question without being disrespectful.
  • Do not to expect to be spoon fed. It is a lazy and limiting method of learning.
  • Be willing to work and study hard to further your knowledge.
  • Set boundaries on the way you are mentored. Do not behave like a child.
  • Have an open mind.
  • The natural progression should be from a teacher-student relationship to friendship. Be prepared and encouraging towards that end.
  • Do not limit yourself to associating only with the Mentor. Do not adopt the Mentor's enemies.

Become Your Own Best Mentor

Twenty years ago, the importance and advantage of having an experienced breeder take a newcomer under their wing had much more impact than today. The difference between then and now is a direct result of the phenomenal growth of the internet. The internet allows you easy access to an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom about cat breeding and showing. So . . . how do you become you own best mentor?

  • Join or These online sister magazines feature over 2000 well-written and researched articles specially to help the cat breeder/exhibitor keep informed on subjects from the most basic to the advanced.
  • Visit as many websites of other breeders as possible, studying their cats and pedigrees.
  • Study and know the history of your breed.
  • Visit breed council websites.
  • Familiarize yourself with the names of the top breeders and the most influential cats in your breed, both current and past.
  • Never stop seeking knowledge!


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