January is National Mentoring Month and a great way to kick off 2019. We’re all looking for guidance in our professional and personal lives these days, especially in an era that puts a lot of pressure on getting ahead and reaping the rewards of diligently following established best practices. Mentorship can be a beautiful thing that helps you grow and achieve your goals, but there are many ways to view and pursue mentorship in business and in life.
Looking at Conventional Mentorship
The typical idea of mentorship holds a single influential individual in the mentor seat. Perhaps they are your direct manager or an executive at your current employer, or a professional outside of your organization in a role you’re aspiring to one day hold. You work together closely with that individual, gaining instruction on how they became successful and applying it to your own life. It’s a rewarding relationship that requires a large commitment of time and effort.
I’ve personally been this type of mentor many times, providing guidance within ATR to those who aspire to reach the executive level of the staffing world. Further, I speak on panels at conferences and companies where I play an advisor and mentor role, working closely with people and helping them to grow over time. While these definitions of mentorship can be effective, mentoring to me is a much broader idea that can be better leveraged every day.
Expanding Your Idea of Mentorship
Just as with crowd-sourced ideas or team efforts in projects, mentorship to me means opening yourself up to ideas from a range of people and sources. Instead of putting all your eggs into one basket, think of all the brilliant minds and resources out there that can serve as guides for you. Entrepreneur and author Erica Dhawan recently spoke to Forbes about the tunnel-vision that old-school mentorship can cause. I agree with her advice to shift gears and “…listen to yourself and think about who you are becoming and how you can surround yourself on a regular basis with the type of people you want to be like.”
Even if you already have a productive relationship with a mentor, this mentality can only help to expand your knowledge base. Notably, this wider idea of mentorship does not require opening up several more time-consuming relationships. It’s more about staying inspired. It’s about keeping your ears to the ground, listening for a range of examples that can be applicable to your goals and who you truly want to become. Opening up your idea of mentorship allows you to choose examples from many different perspectives, even in the form of articles, podcasts, or quick conversations in the parking lot after work. Grab hold of the ideas that are relevant to you and create your own tailored path.
Seeking Mentorship Anywhere and Everywhere
Furthermore, mentorship can happen from many different angles. You can find guidance from those inside your specific sector such as IT, healthcare, and even the construction industry. You can experience position-based mentorship as an entry-level professional, manager, or executive. You can also find mentorship based on ethnicity, gender, and other demographics. Above all, you can always be mentored as a person, as a human looking for improvement – whatever that means to you as an individual.
As a minority woman staffing executive, I’m connected to several communities. I mentor girls on the importance of STEM subjects so that they can realize there are resources and examples to learn from. I speak on MBE panels, sharing my experiences as a Hispanic business leader in 2019. It’s incredibly rewarding to make an impact on these and other groups, but in turn, mentorship inspires me when I see individuals come into their own, speak up about what’s important to them personally, and grow the confidence needed to start a business or project. Mentorship activities remind me how I got here and why I must push harder, both for myself and those around me. To me, mentorship is a beautiful two-way street.
What Mentorship Means to Me
Transformational mentorship doesn’t happen overnight, but mentorship that happens little by little from a wide range of sources can become transformational over time. It’s a much more natural process of learning and growing, tailored to a modern society that prizes efficiency and values evolving best practices. Like respected publication Entrepreneur suggests, ask for advice, not mentorship.
After all, think about your favorite pro basketball team. A veteran point guard can closely mentor a rookie point guard, but that new player will become more well-rounded by also seeking advice on post play from defensive teammates and tips on shooting from offensive players. Expand your view of mentorship in this fashion, and your professional and personal life will be primed to reach new heights.
In need of career guidance, or looking for a role that can help you grow? Reach out to an ATR office near you.