Throughout my career, I’ve worked for companies that supported and encouraged my individual career development. And I’ve worked for companies that did not. I was always grateful to the executives who provided financial support for my training and encouraged me to pursue various opportunities, but I never expected it. I viewed my career and my development as my responsibility alone. I approach mentoring the same way.
Some companies offer formal mentoring programs for employees, but it’s often restricted to executives. I’ve never worked for a company that offered or encouraged mentoring. So I’ve always had to find my own way, and create my own strategy. Looking back, I’m glad I did…because it’s taught me the meaning of mentoring.
Mentors are literally everywhere. I’ve had mentors at the office, professional associations, and at church. I’ve found mentors online through their books, blogs, podcasts, and social media sites. I’ve had male and female mentors, one-time mentors and ongoing mentors. I’ve had mentors who are two and three times my age, as well as people half my age. CEOs and interns alike have mentored me. Some I know personally, others I’ve connected with virtually. Yet, despite their diversity, each of these mentors has advised, trained, or supported me.
I’ve worked with success and business coaches to help me on specific areas of my career development. And there is certainly immense value in an organized approach to mentoring. But to only view it in terms of a formal relationship significantly limits your options. There may be dozens of other people who can contribute to your development…if you examine the day to day interactions you have. For me, mentoring is a mindset, much like networking. It’s how you think; it’s not something you do. When you approach your daily interactions from the perspective of “what can I learn from this person?”, you’ll find mentors everywhere. And when you take the attitude of “what can I share to help this person?”, you’ll discover that you can impact others by sharing your experience and advice.
So my two-part challenge to you is this:
Part 1: Make a list of all of the people you admire, trust, or would like to learn from, and identify at least one way you can interact with each one of them this week. If it’s someone you don’t interact with daily, try reading their book, subscribing to their blog posts, or connecting with them on social media. If it is someone you see regularly, you can invite her for a cup of coffee, send him an email or a handwritten note, or even call her on the phone, if it’s someone you already know.
Part 2: Make a conscious daily effort to support someone in your life by sharing your specific experience and skills. You can share links, resources, or specific timesaving tips you’ve come across on your social media networks. Type up the notes from a recent training session you attended, and share it with others who couldn’t attend. Join an admin LinkedIn Group to share ideas and answer questions. Call a colleague or professional connection and invite him to join you for a cup of coffee or lunch. Oftentimes, initiating contact with people, and asking simple questions about how they are doing, can open doors for additional conversation and lead to mentoring relationships.
When it comes to mentoring, nobody has all the answers. But we can all add to our own knowledge, and share what we do know with others. This is why we all need mentors. And it’s why we can all be mentors.
© 2014 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.