May 14, 2020

Can a Mentor without the Same Experiences as their Mentee Still Be an Effective Mentor?

Doug Lawrence

Mentoring is the practice of helping a mentee learn and grow personally and professionally while navigating through change and challenge.

There is much debate whether a mentor can be effective for their mentee if they have not already lived through a similar experience. This is called lived experience.

“Lived experience refers to a representation of the experiences and choices of a given person, and the knowledge that they gain from these experiences and choices.” (Wikipedia definition)

What do you think? Should mentors without lived experience mentor outside their experience?

My easy answer is that having industry experience is a nice to have, not a need to have; that industry specific experience is not required to bring value to the mentoring arrangement.

My longer answer is

The primary goal for a mentor is to establish a trusted relationship with the mentee. In order to develop that level of trust the mentor utilizes the Questioning Technique (Socratic Method) by asking a series of questions about the mentee, about the organization they work for, and about the role/function they’re responsible for.

By building this level of trust the mentor demonstrates their interest in the mentee, solidifying the relationship and unlocking critical information and details to move forward in their mentoring arrangement.

My Direct Experience

I have worked with people from many different industries over the course of my career. I have had great success with individuals using the questioning technique of the Socratic Method to discover a deeper, richer understanding of who each individual is, where they work, and the challenges they face.

My own direct lived experience comes into play with being able to story tell/story share my lived experiences in order to guide my mentee along their journey. I try to make sure that my stories are relatable and provide some context for the mentee to reflect on.

Some of the outcomes that you may realize from using this technique is that your mentee may experience a higher level of self-esteem and self-confidence. Your mentee may feel safe in your presence as they reflect on the experiences that you have shared, the outcomes you realized and the impact it had on them overall. I have had mentees go back to work in a positive state of mind resulting in them being more productive.

Going into this arrangement with industry specific experience I would have had some bias that would have impacted the arrangement. I would not have made the gains in building a trusted relationship that I did without the industry specific experience. My mentee would have missed out on the reflective exercises and would not have had that sense or feeling of safety as a result of this process.

In conclusion, not having industry specific experience actually creates a deeper, richer mentoring experience for the mentee and the mentor.  This is accomplished through the questioning technique as it probes deeper into the behaviors and challenges that the mentee has been exposed to. The mentor is able to get to the root cause and initiate a behavior change that results in the mentee returning to the productive employee that they were.  WHY?!

If you would like to learn more about this topic contact me to set up a time for us to chat.

For more information about Mentoring Lived Experience and other Mentoring topics - feel free to set up a Zoom call at your convenience through my Calendly link;


Doug Lawrence is the founder of TalentC® and Co-founder of the International Mentor Community.

Doug leads organizations to experience the benefits how mentoring will encourage workforce culture to flow in harmony (mentors), improve productivity from employees (mentees), reducing costly employee onboarding improving the bottom line (organizations).

Doug is an International Certified Mentor, and has obtained his Certificate of Achievement – Mentoring and his Certificate of Competence – Mentor from the International Mentoring Community (IMC). Doug is currently obtaining his Certificate of Competence – Journey Mentor.

Doug’s Practice of Mentoring has resulted in his accumulation of 2,000 hours of mentoring (in person and virtual), 197 hours of speaking opportunities and 672 hours teaching others how to effectively mentor.

Doug is a volunteer mentor with the Sir Richard Branson Entrepreneur Program in the Caribbean and with the American Corporate Partners in the United States working with military personnel in their transition from military life to civilian life. Doug is currently working with researchers to examine the role of mentoring as a support for those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His experience in law enforcement coupled with working with people suffering from PTSD has afforded him a unique view of mentoring and PTSD.

Doug is an international speaker and author about all facets of Mentoring. He published “The Gift of Mentoring” in 2014 with his second book set to publish in 2020.

Doug works with organizations to establish mentoring programs, influence mentoring as a culture, and provides one-on-one direct mentoring for individuals of all backgrounds and levels globally.

Contact Doug directly to discover how mentoring can improve your organization.




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