Posted on 29. Jan, 2013 by Michelle Searer
Happy National Mentoring Month everyone! For the past few years, January has been given the title of Mentoring Month – a month where mentoring programs across the country have our attention to share success stories, talk about the need for more mentors, and reiterate how impactful mentoring truly can be. One of the themes chosen this year to highlight the holiday month is “Mentoring Works”. I like this phrase because of its simplicity – it is direct, to the point, and let’s be honest, it is kind of hard to dispute.
People Making Good works with icouldbe.org, an online mentoring program that pairs mentors from all over the country with high school students in at-risk communities. Mentors help guide students towards academic success and also help students recognize the connection between academics and their future career aspirations. Mentors commit to one hour per week, making it a form of volunteerism that works for busy professionals who want to make an impactful difference, and it works for the students who receive hours of guidance, understanding, and advice.
In my experience, mentoring does work, and can often be one of the best forms of learning. As a recent graduate of the University of Vermont, it isn’t difficult to think back to the time I spent in the classroom learning concepts, taking notes, taking exams, and repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot through my program and courses, and I even had some professors along the way who I would put in the mentor category, BUT I can say without a doubt that the mentors I had throughout my internship experiences were the ones who had the biggest influence on me and helped me realize what path I wanted to pursue post-grad.
There are so many things that internships provide that sitting in a classroom can’t. In my case, I developed writing skills in the context of the public relations field, I learned about professionalism in a PR office setting, and I learned the best practices from PR pros who are constantly adapting to new media and new ways of doing things. I think mentoring works because it equips the mentee with the skills needed to pursue what they want to pursue – whether that is mastering a subject in school or pursuing a specific career path.
I think the greatest thing about the theme “Mentoring Works” is that it ‘works’ for so many different people, but not for the same reasons. The above is why mentoring works for me, and below is what my fellow PMGers at People Making Good PR have to say. Why do you think mentoring works?
Mentoring Works – that’s an awfully short phrase to describe such a powerful statement. Mentoring means different things to different people, whether you’re growing within your career, or ascending through schooling. Either way, one thing I’ve learned is that it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when mentoring “works.” You may be looking for a bigger result when really you should be focusing on small, yet meaningful, successes along the way.
Let me explain. It’s been awhile since I graduated college, and much longer since I graduated high school, and yet there are certain mentoring experiences that continue to come back to me now. I can’t tell you how many times it’s served me in my adult life to know how to “perfectly wrap a present,” something I learned from an employer in retail, one of my first jobs. Not only has the skill been helpful, but I look back now and notice how slowing down and perfecting the process is something I’ve applied to other areas of my life as well. A professor in college who brought us on multiple treks through the beautiful state of Vermont not only gave me a love for hiking, but taught me valuable life lessons that I still find myself applying for the first time years later. And of course, whether they intended to or not, Ken and Nicole fostered in me a passion for PR way back when I first began my internship at PMG. Through their guidance and expertise over the years, I’ve grown into a career I never could have imagined, that continues to surprise and challenge me every day!
So in turn, perhaps you find yourself guiding or mentoring someone in your life today. You may be looking for instant gratification, a lightbulb to “click” on – when in fact, you may never know the full effect of your time spent with that person. All you can do is give 110%… chances are, the experiences you’ve had in your life will be passed down and learned from for many years to come.
I have had many mentors through the years but the one that really stands out came from a job that I had early on in my career. My boss at that time took me under his wing and wanted me to grow as a person, not just as an employee. He taught me not only how to do something, but why we did it as well. Having at one time been in the same position that I was in, he understood that I would make mistakes and used those as learning opportunities to help build confidence instead of negative experiences that might have pushed me away from the field.
I really believe that mentoring is so important in not only a work environment, but in life and that it is a role that anyone can take on. I always look at my parents as my biggest mentors and I feel lucky for everything that they have taught me.
As both a mentor and mentee, I can confidently say that mentoring not only works but, it makes a difference. In going from school to school, internship to internship and job to job, I understand the importance of having someone you can confide in along the way for support. It’s imperative to have connections like these throughout life in order to meet your goals and be successful.
In the work place, I value the relationships that I have with those who help me to be the best person that I can be and with those who look to me for support of their own. I am grateful for what I’m able to learn from those around me and it’s inspiring to know that I’m able to do the same for others.
I think mentoring works because it provides an extremely important factor in success that can be hard for many to find on their own: motivation. Through my own experiences as both a mentor and a mentee, I have found motivation to be an extremely important part of the mentoring relationship. With the guidance and support that a mentor provides, he or she ignites the desire to perform better, study harder or work more diligently as the mentee is now not only striving to meet goals for his or herself, but for their mentor too.
Looking back on my college career at UVM, it’s clear to me that the classes in which I performed my best were the classes where my professors took the time to ensure I was taught what was needed to do well. The professors that truly invested their time in my understanding of the subject matter were the professors I connected the most with and tried the hardest to please. Their own passion for my success became my motivation to perform well and try my hardest.
In return, mentees also motivate their mentors to be the best teacher possible. Having part in someone else’s success can feel just as rewarding as your own, making the mentoring relationship one that is truly beneficial.
As a mentor and student director of my high school’s freshman mentoring program, I learned that mentoring enriches the lives of both the mentor and the mentee. Being mentored is sometimes oversimplified and thought to be purely observational or educational, but it is actually a much more active process that requires consistent engagement and feedback, and helps mentors grow in tandem with their mentees. We all have very different skills, talents and interests, and mentoring helps us share those with each other in meaningful, mutually beneficial ways. It works.
From the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Having graduated from Champlain College, here in Burlington, Vermont, I’ve learned first hand the impact of what it means to be involved. I was given an invaluable opportunity — instead of being taught at, I was asked to become involved in my chosen career path. This meant hands on class work, group projects and internships led by exceptional local businesses. With these opportunities came a group of teachers, friends, co-workers, and classmates that would act as my mentors and confidants as I began to shape my future.
These opportunities, along with the guidance from a group of mentors, have led me to PMG where I continue to play the role of mentee while also the role of mentor. As a young professional, it is now more important than ever to take the opportunity to mentor and be mentored. Patience, hard work, diligence, and a thick skin are best learned with the help of a trusted mentor, someone who has been in your shoes and who knows how to help you be involved and guide you through it until you’re ready to do it all on your own and repeat the mentoring cycle. Mentoring works, because I am here!