College of DuPage, Library of Teleconferences IT Office of Special Services at Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Mentoring is a way of teaching that dates back to ancient times…
Here are some questions to ask yourself before asking someone to be your mentor.
- What is a mentor?
- What do mentors do?
- What are the characteristics of your ideal mentor?
- What are your goals in working with a mentor?
- What can you do to be an effective mentoring protégé?
- What can you do for your mentor?
- Tips for mentoring protégés
2. What Do Mentors Do?
Mentors teach through
First, consider the characteristics of a good mentor. These may include:
- A desire to help
- Broad-based and up-to-date knowledge and technical skills
- Life-long learner with aptitude for teaching
- Strong people and communication skills
- High energy levels (and not the first person out the door at closing)
- Positive outlook and sense of humor
- Good manager of time and resources
Next, decide what characteristics you value most in a mentor. This will vary from individual to individual. One person may value a friendly, easy-going relationship with a mentor most, while another may value knowledge and technical skills over people skills.
Determine how a mentor could best help you, and what you wish to learn. Set specific learning goals, whether they are tactical (learning how a particular job is done) or strategic (learning what and why something is done). Also set a specific time period to achieve your goals.
Effective mentoring requires that everyone involved be committed to learning. Once you have determined your goals, you must also:
- Accept responsibility for your learning
- Be open to new ideas and ways of learning
- Communicate effectively
- Accept feedback and act on it
- Be able to ask for help when you need it
Effective mentoring requires time and effort on the part of the mentor. You will get the most benefit out of a mentoring relationship when you are proactive and responsible. You can help your mentor out by:
- Communicating regularly and efficiently
- Being helpful and supportive in return
- Keeping trust levels high through confidentiality
- Holding yourself to professional standards
- Staying positive
- Addressing problems as they arise
Strategic thinking considers why a job is done. It involves thinking, planning, and actions.
How to think strategically:
- Consider the big picture
- Recognize patterns and trends
- Honor priorities
- Anticipate issues
- Predict outcomes
- Have smart alternatives to fall back upon
- Deal with issues
o Understand the overriding mission and purpose of library
o Know why library exists
o Know what library does that other libraries do not or cannot do.
o Visualize where the library will be in the future
Tactical thinking concerns how to get the job done:
- Knowing the hands-on skills necessary.
- Making sure strategic goals are met.
- Performing each task with quality and efficiency.
How to get your mentor to help you become more strategic:
- Interview your mentor about strategic versus tactical approaches to your job.
- Ask your mentor to help you develop strategic approaches to your job or learning activities.
- Ask your mentor to be frank about your strengths and weaknesses.
- Do a self analysis using past projects or learning activities.
- Research the literature and report to your mentor.
- Shadow someone with a reputation for being strategic and learn from them.
- Network with your manager and your peers.