I can’t say enough great things about how important mentors have been for my career. My sanity, my well-being. They have helped me discover breakthroughs, believe in myself, gain confidence, put myself out there, talk myself down from ledges, shed fear, navigate tricky situations, get out of trouble, the list is endless. Their wisdom their encouragement, their believing in me is a big part of why I started Academics at Work in the first place. A way for me to pay it forward, I guess.
It’s so important that you seek out and have a range of mentors for yourself, and I’ve written about that before. What I want to do today is talk about how important it is that you – yes, YOU – put yourself out there as a mentor to others.
I can already sense that I’m going to have to yell over the deafening roar or your impostor syndrome kicking in, so again for those in the back:
YES, YOU. YOU SHOULD BE A MENTOR.
Too young? Nope. I have younger mentors that give me perspective on “kids these days,” which helps me understand and empathize and better trouble-shoot the struggles that my Gen Z (what ARE they called, anyway) staff and students face. My younger colleagues help me learn the ins and outs of some newfangled system or gamification badges we have to start using.
Too “inexperienced” in your field? Nope, not going to let you stand behind that excuse, either. The outsider’s perspective is invaluable. Many of us who are, ahem, well seasoned in our fields have what I call the expertise blind spot. We forget what it is like to climb the learning curve as a newbie, and forget what is obvious to us that is not at all clear to external partners, or teams who work and live outside our jargon-laced ecosystem.
You aren’t “the” (singular) “expert”? Sorry, can’t play that card, either. News flash: none of us really know what we’re doing, so mentoring is just about being honest and authentic, confidential, and sharing what HAS worked for you. Also: you are smart. You can make educated guesses and responses. You don’t need pages upon pages of citations you can throw at a mentee for any given topic.
You don’t have the time? Nobody does, but people are what really matter at work. Yes, sure, the products you make, the programs you deliver, the support your team provides, all important. But what makes any of that possible? Your colleagues, your bosses, your student workers. And mentoring is shown to benefit the mentor, too. So if you gotta talk yourself into it, at least use a selfish reason. (You should also add it to your resume, too! It shows service to your organization, your peers, that you take initiative, and your leadership).
What are your excuses? Stop making excuses and start stepping up.