Saturday, October 27, 2012, is “Make A Difference Day”, our nation’s most wide-spread day of community service. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, this day is a “celebration of neighbor-helping-neighbor."
For me, this quote from Winston Churchill speaks to the heart of the movement: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”.
My thoughts are to take the sentiment of this movement, people helping people, in a slightly different direction. Let me explain.
Many of us can say we had a teacher or parent that helped guide us into becoming who we are today. They encouraged us, led by example, and gave us the tools to achieve our goals. But does it, or should it, stop there? I believe we need to keep that momentum going and Mentoring, especially in our professional lives, is where I believe we can shine!
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide”. To me, being a Mentor requires that you be genuinely interested in another person’s growth, with no real expectation of tangible personal gain.
Take a look at this scenario……
You have made it. You began pursuing your profession fresh out of college, worked hard, and were able to gain success. By now you fully understand the ins and outs of your profession, have made wonderful contacts, and have achieved your goals.
Now you become acquainted with someone also fresh out of college and eager to make their own mark. They could either be a new hire within your company or someone within your professional circle. You observe them. They are working diligently to learn and trying to make their own connections. But you know making those quality connections and “climbing the ladder” are tough. I believe this is where you have a choice. You could sit idly by – after all, you made it on your own – or, you could choose a different path. You could be a Mentor!
What does it take to be a good Professional Mentor?
A study of the mentoring techniques most commonly used in business; Aubrey, Bob and Cohen, Paul (1995) Working Wisdom: Timeless Skills and Vanguard Strategies for Learning Organizations, outlined these Mentoring Strategies that resonated with me:
- You could use the “Accompanying” method: taking part in the learning process “side-by-side” with the learner
- You could use the “Showing” method: using examples or setting your own example to demonstrate a skill or activity – lead/mentor through your actions
- You could use the “Harvesting” method: focusing on what was learned by “hands on experience” and then afterwards asking the questions “what have you learned?” or “how useful was it?”
I would add my own preferred technique, “Inclusion”. Invite the mentee into your “inner circle”. Introduce them to who you know and invite them into your professional groups. In other words, “Pay it Forward”, “Make A Difference”, and Pave the Way!
What are the Benefits of Mentoring?
One benefit of Mentoring is that it helps bridge the gap between “school” knowledge and “real-world” knowledge. It helps take what the Mentee has learned and moves it to the next level.
In the workplace, Mentoring also helps new hires “get up to speed” and allows new employees to adjust better to the new company culture.
In my opinion, the most important benefit of Mentoring is that it aids in the advancement of talented individuals. Taking someone promising “under your wing” allows them to achieve, or even surpass, their professional goals.
Mentoring also benefits the Mentor. As a Mentor you can hone your own leadership skills and gain great personal satisfaction by sharing those skills and expertise. You can even feel more appreciated and respected.
Many times Mentors will even increase their own productivity and job performances as a result of being a mentor. The desire to be a worthy role model will kick in.
How do You know that Mentoring is Right for You?
- As a Mentor You should want to share what You have learned and enjoy encouraging and motivating others.
- As a Mentor You should truly want to be a part of helping someone grow and succeed.
- As a Mentor You should realize the time commitment and be willing to see it through.
- As a Mentor You should consider mentoring as a way to contribute and “pay it forward."
I believe that at its finest, Mentoring can break down the perception of “cut throat” competition among professionals. Of course I am not naïve enough to believe that it will no longer exist (and competition does drive innovation and invention). But I refuse to believe it need be the only way.
Mentoring promotes great professional, and in my opinion, personal development. Truly helping someone on their own professional path can reward you with a fantastic sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. In an ideal Mentor/Mentee relationship, everyone wins! And what could be a better way to “Make A Difference”?