Seek out a mentor or help a mentee. It’s time well spent.
Your day is already busy. Maybe you are going to school. Maybe you're working. Whatever your journey, there is a high probability that you have a busy schedule. Adding one more commitment might put you over the edge. But will it really…especially if you know that this time spent will help you with your career and personal life?
January is National Mentoring Month. It’s a topic that is so important that mentoring has its own focused month, yet people often say that they are too busy for mentoring or they just haven't prioritized building these relationships. We often hear something to the effect of “I know I should be working with a mentor. I just haven’t made the time.” In its basic sense, mentoring is about advising or training another. The real purpose of mentoring is to help you grow as a person and become the best version of yourself. Now don’t you think that’s worth the time and effort?
Cheryl Miller, JMG Specialist at Northwest Michigan Works!, considers herself fortunate to have mentors in her life. Miller believes “Mentoring is a relationship with a person who has more experience in an area that you are interested in improving.” Mentors serve in many areas of your life including personal, spiritual and career. Mentors may help you achieve your goals throughout your life, introducing you to new ways of thinking, challenging your limiting beliefs, sharing valuable lessons and more. Each mentoring relationship is different, but the common thread is that both the mentors and the mentees - those being mentored - benefit from the time spent together.
Dominque Clay, JMG Specialist with GST Michigan Works! In Flint, has had a few mentors. “I had two mentors in high school. One helped me to learn how to see the big picture in different situations. The other helped me to think logically. My current mentor is my Manager, Sabrina Plamondon. She has helped me grow so much both personally and professionally. She teaches me to value myself, to not be afraid to ask questions, and how to navigate through various circumstances.”
Now that we’ve established the value of mentoring, the next step is to consider how you approach someone to be your mentor. As a mentee, it is important that you first get very clear about what you are looking for in a mentoring relationship:
Are you looking for someone who can provide you feedback on your resume or something that you’ve created?
Do you want to connect with someone who can introduce you to others in a certain field?
Are you looking for someone who will just listen to your issues and give you ideas to overcome your challenges?
Whatever the reason you have to pursue a mentoring relationship, you need to “own the opportunity.” There are some simple mentoring best practices for you to consider as you reach out to someone with whom you’d like to develop this relationship:
Introduce yourself and let the prospective mentor know what you are seeking.
Know your goals and what you’d like to get out of this relationship
Find a time to meet, either online, over the phone, or in person, that works for both parties.
Agree on boundaries; Will this be strictly focused on business or are you open to personal advice as well?
Prepare an agenda, outlining the topics you’d like to cover but also leave room for items that the Mentor might want to discuss.
Seek and be open to feedback. Most often the mentor has life experiences from which you can learn. Decide for yourself how you want to apply the feedback.
Follow through on any commitments you’ve made.
The time and effort it takes to build a strong mentoring relationship are worth it. As Miller states, “You don't know what you don't know. A mentorship relationship is a great thing to help you grow as a person, and hopefully will help you avoid making common mistakes. It is a great opportunity to learn from others and helps to keep you humble and teachable!” And Clay recommends mentoring as well, “It's good to see things from different points of view. They can bounce ideas off of one another to determine the best course of action to be taken. It's significant to have a listening ear, a healthy support system, uplifting advice, someone that is there for you without judgment, and the chance to make a new friend.“
If you are not convinced yet that mentoring provides a real value, "Research shows that mentees generally perform better in their programs and after they get out of school" than students without mentors, according to W. Brad Johnson, PhD, a psychology professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and author of several books about mentoring. "Students tend to get tied into the mentor's network of colleagues, and that creates more open doors." Mentoring builds a network of allies that tend to look out for your best interest. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
So now that we’ve convinced you that mentoring is worth the time and effort, you may be asking “What do I do next?” Seek out a mentor that can help you with school, your career, or your personal life. A great place to start is one of our Youth Solutions programs like Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG). If you are interested in being a mentor, please contact us. Either way, you can learn more about our programs at www.ouryouthsolutions.org