The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.
In a discussion about the importance of mentors for doctoral students, a classmate introduced the idea of multiple mentors for different aspects of one’s life. For instance, an individual may not want his or her personal trainer offering financial advice and may not want parenting tips from his or her dissertation mentor. In such a situation, this classmate suggests multiple mentors as a potential solution. The idea aligns well with Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV), which states that “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” and certainly has some practical advantages. However, there are also some concerns which I personally would carefully consider before entering into such an arrangement.
Having multiple mentors is neither new nor rare. Chervinsky noted that President Washington gradually increased his reliance on the cabinet during the course of his two presidential terms. Chervinsky explained how Washington transitioned from correspondence to regular meetings with his Secretary of War and from lengthy Senate deliberations on foreign affairs to more efficient meetings with his Secretary of State. Washington’s cabinet, and those of his successors, have all been composed of multiple mentors. Likewise, most students in the United States have a team of administrators, guidance counselors, content-area teachers, coaches, and others who all share the goal of ensuring their success. Having multiple mentors is a familiar concept and it works well in some capacities.
However, there are some limitations to its effectiveness. The mentee must clearly define each mentor’s role to reduce conflicting advice. Even then, when conflicts do happen, the mentee needs to know which voice to follow. Otherwise, having multiple mentors can lead to more confusion than clarity. Also, I would be interested in knowing why Sutton (whom the classmate cited during the discussion) recommended five mentors and why these five. As I was looking for this article, I came across a similar title in which Miller recommended a different group of five and I have personally heard life coaches recommend up to 7 mentors—one for each goal area. This is not to suggest that Sutton’s recommendations are not valid, but rather to explore if a different number or combination of mentors might better serve those in different situations or with different goals.
Chervinskly, L. M. (2018). The historical presidency: George Washington and the first presidential cabinet. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 48(1).139-152. https://doi.org/10.1111/psq.12387
Holy Bible, New King James Version. (2020). Thomas Nelson (Original work published 1982).
Miller, J. (2014). The five people you must have in your network. Institute for Career Advancement Needs. https://icanglobal.net/the-five-people-you-must-have-in-your-network/
Sutton, K. L. (2020). Five people to have in your mentor network. Talent Development. 74(4). 80-82.