Thank Your Mentors

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

 January continues National Mentoring Month, with the 26th being set aside as “Thank Your Mentor Day.” I encourage you to think about the mentors you have had to this point in your career. They may be old bosses with whom you keep in touch. They may be coaches, teachers, or professors who inspired you. Find an opportunity to thank your mentors for what they have meant to you.

When I work with formal mentoring programs, I find that feedback from protégés to mentors is often lacking. As a result, protégés are often much more satisfied with mentoring than the mentors are. I call this the “feedback gap”. The protégé knows how she has benefitted from mentoring because she sees it firsthand. Her mentor, on the other hand, may have no idea what is (or isn’t) working for the protégé. To close the gap, I tell protégés that they should not just express appreciation; they should tell their mentors what impact they have had.

There are lots of ways to thank your mentors. You can send them a quick e-mail letting them know what you’ve been up to lately. Better yet, send a hand written note expressing your appreciation. Even better, schedule a lunch to catch up and share what you’ve gotten from their mentoring (there is a nice Harvard Business Review blog post on thanking people that I encourage you to check out). You might even thank some of your mentors through a blog post, like this:

  • Dave Munz, who shepherded me through Saint Louis University’s doctoral program and helped me make decisions about my career along the way.
  • Jerry Katz, who gave me good advice about both teaching and consulting.
  • Bob Vecchiotti, who encouraged me during the early years of my consulting and helped me figure out what I was doing.
  • Marvin McMillan, who was a great role model at Laclede Gas and encouraged me to go back to graduate school.
  • Bro. Eugene Feld, my junior and senior year calculus teacher who challenged me to raise my academic game.
  • Rich Nemanick and Coke Hennessy, my parents, both of whom were small business owners for their examples, their encouragement, and their love.

I appreciate all of the mentoring and guidance I have received, and I know I’m not done learning yet. The list will continue to grow through the years. What does your list look like?

To comment on this article or to learn more about mentoring, contact Rik Nemanick at