Mentor Whiplash Is A Real Thing

27 December 2021

I was at a meeting on Friday with this woman my friend introduced me to in Austin who is super big in the tech/ startup space, and we got into a whole conversation about mentorship and defining a mentor. She’s in her 60s, so it was really interesting to chat to someone who is older than me about mentorship and how she defines her role as a mentor. As I embark on building this app in 2022, I’m eager to see how my experience mentoring and getting mentored influences my decisions about what elements of the app to focus on first. There is NO such thing as failure, but what you can experience when launching something new is certainly a level of intimidation about possibly failing, and I’m certainly dealing with that! What I do know is that whether or not something is successful as first will only catapult you into something else to pursue. Life is all about the pivot.

One statement she said on Friday that really caught me is that mentor whiplash is a real thing. I’ve never thought about the chance of being overwhelmed by speaking to multiple mentors in  one day or in one frame of time but she’s right. It’s real, and it’s something to watch out for because if you don’t, you’ll end up getting stuck feeling more confused following every person you chat to.

At the UCONN summit in February, we’re implementing Mentor Match for the first time ever during our lunch hour on February 26th, and I know that some students may feel slightly overwhelmed by talking to each mentor in 15 minute time slots over the course of 60 minutes. So, how do you avoid “whiplash” when talking and networking but still continuing to talk to tons of people and gain insight from all of them?

Be prepared.

Anyone who talks to a lot of people at once is going to feel slightly overwhelmed but that doesn’t mean stop now: if anything, it means pull out your notebook, take a deep breath, and write down any words or statements that stand out to you during the course of your conversation. If you end up writing nothing down that’s not a bad sign: it just means this mentor probably isn’t a solid fit for you and you should keep talking to other people in the room.

I’ve done a lot of posts about networking over the years and one way that I successfully network without getting tired or lost amongst a crowd is starting with an entryway question like what do you do now? or where are you from? to get someone talking about themselves, and from there they’ll probably ask you a similar question where you can answer and follow-up with I’m actually building x,y,z or I’m interested to continue to pick your brain because I’m looking for a job in x,y,z industry and you seem connected. 

Implement that similar mentality into your mentor calls and before you’re overwhelmed you’ll realize you’ve successfully taken what you needed from a 15 or 20 minute conversation to pursue your next endeavor!


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