The Mentoring Choice
By Barbara Linebarger
(WICT SOUTHEAST) Mentoring is an opportunity that I highly recommend to everyone – whether you mentor another person or have the opportunity to be mentored. Over the years, I have been really blessed with great mentors who helped enhance my career and image. Some were a quick one time meeting to address a particular skill or challenge, others have invested years and helped me paint a clearer picture of where I am heading. Each person gave me insight to what worked for them, as well as offered advice and a sounding board as I developed what works for me.
Likewise, I have had amazing people who have asked me to be their mentor. Some I have worked with through an organized program like WICT,
others have just stopped by and asked for my time. I have learned as much from them as I hope they learned from me. As each of those sessions began, the question I always start with is: “What do you want to gain from this mentoring relationship?” Often they haven’t thought about what they expect from our time together, mostly they just want to understand how they can grow their career. It isn’t something to leave to chance.
The other night I was driving home from work and was listening to one of the local country radio stations. A song came on by Toby Keith that I had not heard before, but I thought the chorus had the perfect message.
“Cause if you don’t know where you’re goin’
You might end up somewhere else.”
It is important to have goals – both professional and personal. Those goals help guide you in the choices you make. But to do that, you have to be willing to look inside and know yourself. Do you know what you want in your life?
Most of us had parents that told us we could be anything wanted to be when we grew up – but it requires us to make choices to help us get there. For years I mentored teenagers at my church, and often our discussions were around the fact that our life is the sum of all our choices, so be careful about every choice you make because you will be known by them. The same goes with our career. Your reputation and image are perceived by how you present yourself – your work ethic, the company you keep, and the opportunities you create for yourself. Opportunities we didn’t plan may surface and you have to make a choice. But if you know yourself well, understand your overall goals in life, then making choices becomes easier because you are in charge of the path you take – even in the face of the unknown.
So my advice is to prepare for the next mentoring opportunity. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I want to gain from this relationship?
- Am I moving in the direction that makes me happy? If not, what do I need to change my path?
- Am I willing/able to make choices that may change the direction I am on today?
Simple yes or no answers won’t do for these questions. You need to explore what is really important to you and not just what is the popular choice. In the process, you may discover a path you did not know was a choice and even more important, a mentoring relationship that helps you clear that path.