Our blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

March 26, 2009

Need Seasoning? Pass the Mentorship!

Traditionally, we think of mentors to be those that are older, wiser, and have gone before us. However, now, many companies, including Walt Disney, are looking to partner more "seasoned" workers with younger workers who offer a different set of desired skills and expertise, for example technical knowledge. You might say these older workers are thereby receiving a little seasoning of their own.

This got us thinking about how it might be helpful to reframe mentorship...Perhaps it would be better to segment our "development needs" and find mentors who are accordingly suitable rather than look for "the whole package" or a carbon copy of your desired future self.

Instead of trying to identify where you want to be a few years down the line, locate someone similar, establish contact and a relationship, and twist their arm to give you lots of free advice and time, we could all focus on matching various mentors with our varying needs. The former seems daunting and a tall order, the latter seems actionable and pragmatic.

Instead of "Who do I want to be like", we can ask "Who can best teach me to have difficult conversations?" or effectively manage a project? or be more comfortable making an initial sales call? (Of course these are prompting me to ask myself what skills I would like to get mentoring around....what about you?).

What might it look like to work with these folks? Could it be a simple as casual correspondence? A few coffees? Can we engage with people who aren't even aware that they are mentoring us? What about those that even don't know us? (For example can I learn to interview better by listening carefully to Terry Gross?)

I would imagine that these answers will vary alongside each of our learning styles, but regardless it does feel quite exciting and liberating to think of all the people that we can very specifically learn from.

It is important to distinguish between bartering and the type of mentoring that I am suggesting...because there is a big difference.

With bartering you are exchanging your ability to do something for someone (very often it is something that you would otherwise get paid to do) in return for their willingness to do something for you. While, on the other hand, mentorship is about teaching skills and abilities. Mentees should have learned something new in the process that they are now able to leverage and employ. They leave the relationship changed, different, and more "seasoned".

And there is an equally large difference between services you should pay for and places where you can look for mentorship. On the one hand, there is no need to learn to do everything yourself (keep the accountant and the tech consultant for example!), and on the other, there are things that you should learn to do yourself and learn to do them right, by using a professional.

For goodness sake, don't ask for mentorship from someone who would otherwise get paid to share the expertise you are seeking. And make the necessary investments by hiring professionals where it seems appropriate...but I'd encourage you to think of a couple things that you want to improve and can learn from others...think about what they are and who can help and how. Consider how you can "season" yourself with the experience and wisdom of others...

No comments: