Me, a Mentor?
This week was a great week for me; in fact, it was probably one of the best of my career. On the personal front, I had a visit from my parents, which always manages to brighten my spirits and remind me of the importance of family as a central role in my life. Even though it was just a quick stop-over for lunch and spending some time hanging out in my apartment, I continue to realize how lucky I am to have two wonderful parents who have supported me through every major event and milestone in my life, and continue to push me to work hard and continue to learn (they’ve been the most vocal proponents of Operation #sadoc).
At work, I had my annual performance planning meeting with my supervisor, and was pleased to see many new projects and tasks added to my role, which continues to evolve and keep me interested. I never expected to be at Siena for 4 years, but the opportunity to advance and receive new projects as well as work with a top notch student affairs team has kept me here and passionate about my work.
More importantly, I was meeting with a student who is exploring student affairs as a career field. This student hasn’t been able to attend any of Siena’s “Future Leaders in Student Affairs” workshops this year, so meets with me one on one to start planning his graduate school application process. We went out to Buffalo Wild Wings (something I do for all of our students who are exploring student affairs….affectionately called the “Life Planning Lunch/Dinner”), and as we were discussing geographic location, graduate assistantships, personal statements, deadlines, and the adjustment to life after college, he dropped the “m” word on me. He said, “Thanks for being a friend and mentor.” I was taken aback by this statement. Me, a mentor? Surely not. I don’t have anything of serious value to offer people. Sure, I like to think I’m quick with a snarky comment to make my staff and colleagues laugh, but serious stuff like mentoring? Nahhhhhh. Can’t be.
Then I started thinking about the qualities of a good mentor, and how extremely fortunate I am to have had some amazing mentors in my life to this day. To me, all mentors must have the following qualities:
- Ongoing Presence: Mentors must be a continued presence in the lives of the people who look up to them. It doesn’t mean close proximity, but it does mean a willingness to keep in touch and be an ongoing support system.
- Challenger: An effective mentor is going to challenge people to think critically about the decisions that they have to make. Mentors should be sounding boards who are willing to push people to have high expectations and goals, work hard to make a difference in the lives of others, to be a servant leader, and most importantly, to be that reality check for someone and say “No, that’s not going to work.”
- Dedicated to Development: Student development is the core of our work. Making sure that a mentor promotes their mentees continuing development as a young adult and young professional is critical. Providing opportunities for a mentee to see “behind the curtain” of our work can be beneficial to our students who are looking to enter our field, as it takes a bit of the mystery out of our work and adds a touch of realism.
- Positive Role Model: Mentors should “walk the walk.” This includes being willing to admit our own mistakes and share our own personal and professional stories with our mentees. We ask our students and fellow professionals to “be here, now” with us, we should do the same.
- Commitment to Reflection & Processing: Things don’t always go according to plan. Mentors need to be the person that will help reflect and process when things go awry. This process needs to be ongoing, as active reflection on goals and values is also essential.
The mentors in my life have been outstanding in all of these aspects. They have been there for me through the good AND the bad. They’ve made me think about work, life, ambitions, fears, and to take a critical look at myself as a young professional. I can’t imagine where I would be today if it wasn’t for these people, some of whom have been in my life for years, others for a relatively short period of time. All have made a profound difference in my life. For those of you in Higher Education and/or Student Affairs, be sure to find mentors early in your undergraduate, graduate, and professional life, as this will form the basis of a network that will support and challenge you daily.
Lastly, remember to thank your mentors regularly. This is an area where I don’t often succeed. So, in closing, let me thank a few people who have served as mentors in my life. Some of these folks are SA professionals, and I’ve included their twitter names, as you should definitely follow them!
- Cissy Petty (@cissypetty): for giving me a second chance, opening my eyes to student affairs as a career field, and for teaching me to be proud of who I am.
- Dan Nilsson (@DanielDNilsson): for teaching me how to be a young professional, mentor, and friend all at once.
- Elizabeth Thompson (@feministorbust): for continuing to inspire me to make social justice a priority in my work.
- Maggie Evans: for continued friendship and support starting in graduate school and continuing today.
- Hugh Brown: for always being willing to sit and chat about work, life, and everything in between.
- Stephanie Carr: for being a resource and sharing new innovations and ideas regarding training and selection that have helped me immensely in my role here at Siena.
- JMU ORL: for saying “yes” and bringing me down to Virginia for an amazing two years of graduate work.
- Mel Beach: for hiring me and having faith in my abilities and allowing me to take ownership of my work and career.
- Kathy Brannock: for allowing me the opportunity to take chances at work, try new initiatives, and have the opportunity to advance in my career.
- Maryellen Gilroy: for pushing me to continue on operation #sadoc and making the resources available for me to do this.
- Craig Beebe (@craigbeebe): for being a sounding board and a “cheerleader” for my successes.
- Teri Bump (@tbump): for helping to make connections and serving as an inspirational leaders not just for women (a primary interest for her), but for men as well!
- Steve Malvaso (@stevemalvaso): for teaching me that being authentic and honest is always a two-way street.
Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend.