Mentoring Matters – Think About It

By Lisa Brown, Publicity Club of New England

Do you have a mentor? Are you a mentor? Your answer to both should be yes.

This week I attended a kickoff session for a mentoring program at my company and it occurred to me that mentoring is something we sometimes take for granted or don’t give enough thought to. But in reality, nearly all of us are where we are today – at least in part – because of mentors (or in some cases lack thereof).

Whether you’ve been part of a formal mentoring program or had informal relationships along the course of your career – or heck over the course of your life – nuggets of wisdom on what to do or not do as well as how/why to do or not do something, have influenced and shaped us over time.

Now here’s why you should both HAVE a mentor and BE a mentor. We’re never too old, too experienced or too good to learn more. Get a mentor to help you achieve your goals, work through a challenge or simply get a fresh perspective. Similarly, it’s never too early in your career to share knowledge or help someone get to the next step in their journey (and it’s rewarding for you too, not to mention the good karma it brings).

Just starting out in your career and think you’re too young to help someone? There’s always a person in need. My first grader was assigned a “2nd grade buddy” to help her navigate a new school and have a friendly face/resource in the schoolyard. I am not sure what wisdom this child has imparted on my daughter, but I know it’s an important relationship helping shape her elementary school experience – an early mentor!

For me personally, I have some wonderful mentors and continue to seek advice from those who’ve “been there, done that” or have simply had a different experience than mine and therefore a unique perspective. Through both formal and informal mentoring relationships, others have taught me how to be more confident, how to persevere through challenging periods, how to effectively challenge the status quo, how to be a better manager, how to be an influencer and leader, and how it’s important to take a leap of faith and follow opportunities – you never know where they might take you.

So now what? That’s right – a call to action. If you don’t have a mentor that you meet with periodically or can go to when you need advice, find one. Tell the person you have in mind how much you would appreciate hearing about his/her career path and getting advice from time to time and if the person agrees, set up a mutually agreed upon schedule for recurring meetings.

If you aren’t acting as a mentor to someone, look for opportunities to help others. Sure, you’re not going to send an email to someone saying “Congrats I’ve decided to mentor you” – but you can make yourself available and open to providing advice and also seek out formal mentoring programs (e.g., through career/industry focused programs, college/alumni networks, youth oriented groups like Mass Mentoring Partnership, etc.).

Mentoring can be so rewarding for so many reasons…it’s a powerful way to build your network and bring positive energy to your future – and who doesn’t need help with that?

Lisa Brown is an Assistant Vice President at State Street.

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