Charles Cochran, a Project Manager on the Traffic [...]
When you think of mentoring, what comes to mind? An older senior executive partnering with a young up and comer? This is what most people picture, but experience has taught me it’s so much more.
The window of what people often think mentoring applies to is very narrow. But it doesn’t have to be confined to a professional setting or to certain ages and roles. You can be a mentor to someone in your community with whom you have a personal connection, or if you are a young person, you might mentor an older person on how to use technology.
My hope is to challenge people to think about how they can make a difference, connect with people and build significant relationships.
I’ve had the opportunity to help people with this by leading mentoring modules as a part of Southern District ITE leadership training initiatives in various states. I think I’m becoming known as the “mentoring lady” in some circles, a title I’m happy to have. I’ve been blessed to have some great mentors during my career, so spreading a good word about mentoring is important to me.
At Sain, we have an informal mentoring approach. We’ve developed a culture that supports and encourages relationships among our staff. Sometimes we will seek sources for mentors outside the firm. In these situations, we can match our staff with others in our network that might be good advisors. And I’m always looking outside of Sain for people we can support and help.
One of the things people need the most is encouragement, someone who will stand in the background as a cheerleader and coach. Sometimes people also need a kick in the pants. I’ve certainly experienced that. A prod from Jim Meads, Sain Principal and Owner, was what I needed a few years ago to tackle a big goal that I could have found all kinds of reasons not to do.
So the power of mentoring comes from how much it enriches our developmental growth with multiple sources and perspectives, not only as professionals but as individuals.
For those who have an interest in being a mentor, I always caution realism in your expectation about how much time it will take. Mentoring is about building a relationship with somebody. If you just dabble in it, no one will get much out of it.
Go in with your eyes wide open. There are many cheerful and fun things about mentoring, but it can also be hard when you become that engaged with another person. You’re not always going to be sharing the good parts of their life. Committing yourself to another person may mean you walk through some dark places with them.
To me, this is like treading on holy ground. I can’t imagine something more special or humbling than to walk through something that’s very tough with someone. The real value in mentoring comes from having a close relationship with another human being.
If mentoring is something you’ve been thinking about from either end of the spectrum, this is a great way to start connecting with people and building significant relationships. In a world that is becoming less human- and more technology-focused, mentoring relationships are needed more than ever.