Mentoring can be focused on helping with roles in the workplace, in professional organizations, in our personal lives and on and on.

By:   Gilma Roncancio-Weemer

I can still remember sitting in the audience at my first ASCLS (then ASMT) Board meeting and thinking theres no way I will ever be sitting at that table. First, as a relatively new professional and an introvert, I never had such aspirations, and second, those members seemed old and I was still so young! Life is full of twists and turns and before I knew it lo and behold I was one of those old members at that very table. So as I look back how did the tables turn in such an unpredictable way? Theres only one answer to that question the power of mentorship. I am fortunate to have had several mentors who significantly impacted my personal and professional development and I would not be the person I am today without those very mentors.

So what is a mentor? The word conjures up a different picture for each of us but a common thread seems to be that a mentor is someone who is experienced and willing to share life lessons and advice with their mentees. Mentoring can be focused on helping with roles in the workplace, in professional organizations, in our personal lives and on and on. We can tailor mentoring to better meet our needs as we can be proactive and seek different mentors for each of the various aspects of our lives. I was fortunate to have mentors from whom I learned things that I could apply to both the workplace and my involvement in ASCLS. For me, first and foremost, I learned by watching my mentors in action. What skills and qualities did they possess that made them great leaders? How did they interact with others? How did they handle difficult people and situations? How did they resolve issues? These were among some of the most important questions for which I sought answers. I learned from the leaders whom I admired and over time I was able to identify best practices and begin to make them my own. Key to my development was not only developing my skills but doing so under the watchful eyes and encouragement of my mentors. I felt my confidence level grow as my mentors expressed their confidence in my abilities. I was willing to assume additional responsibilities and accept more leadership roles when asked because I felt like I was capable of meeting the expectations.

As I increased my involvement in ASCLS and watched new professionals begin their journey in the profession I found myself wanting to encourage them and help them find their way in the organization. Some were very much self-starters with goals to sit at that Board of Directors table sooner than later and some needed a gentle nudge of encouragement to stretch their abilities and to increase their involvement. It was time for me to share the lessons I had learned and help them the way I had been helped. The first step for me in the mentoring process is to establish a connection with the mentee. Getting to know them on a personal level and finding things that a mentor may have in common with a mentee helps lay the groundwork. Once a mentor finds common ground with their mentee its important for the mentor to share their professional journey including trials and tribulations. A mentee can learn from their mentors mistakes. Mentors should ask about the mentees short and long term professional goals. Such goals can also include their involvement in ASCLS, or any other organization, and to what degree they want to participate. Knowing the direction in which they want to go helps determine the type of resources and advice a mentor can provide. A mentor should also take the opportunity to educate the mentee about the inner workings of the organization and help them expand their network with individuals who can help them reach their goals. The more knowledge the mentees have about how things work and the more people they meet with whom they will potentially be working the less anxiety they feel about jumping in and becoming active. Sometimes it just takes explaining the responsibilities and, more importantly, asking them to consider a leadership role rather than waiting for them take that next step on their own.

Ongoing communication is key in the mentor-mentee relationship. As the mentor you need to be proactive, keep in touch with mentees, encourage them to share any obstacles they face, provide advice to help them overcome those obstacles, and let them know youre available and willing to listen. Its helpful to focus discussions on topics identified jointly with your mentee. Mentors should be an advocate for their mentee, recognize the mentees accomplishments, and assure them of your belief in their abilities. As the mentees confidence continues to grow there will be less hesitation on their part to become or continue to serve as a leader.

While many of us have served as unofficial mentors at some point ASCLS now provides the opportunity to become a formal mentor to a fellow ASCLS member whos actively seeking mentorship. The mentorship program includes topics to discuss with mentees along with resources to facilitate those discussions. As the baby boomers continue to retire we need future leaders for our organization. The time is now to help develop those who will ultimately move our organization forward. Nothing is more rewarding than helping to make a difference in someones life and taking pride in their accomplishments! So step up and share your story…Be a mentor!