This post was written by Kathryn Dundon, co-chair of the SAA Mentoring Committee. And if you need additional gentle reminders about the SAA Mentoring Program you may wish to review the blog posts written by me and past president Jackie Dooley on this very subject.
January is the time many of us make resolutions to better ourselves. Whether it’s losing weight, exercising, or saving money, New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on improving our personal situation. But what if we could gain an improved sense of self by looking outward, and better connecting with those around us?
I think it is significant that in addition to being a time of self-improvement, January is also National Mentoring Month. MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership co-sponsors this commemoration, and suggests several ways to participate, including becoming a mentor,* thanking your mentor, or learning more about mentorship in your community.
I would add something to this list of activities: try to recognize and appreciate the informal mentoring relationships you already have access to, or could develop in your current workplace or school. Ask your supervisor to lunch and learn more about how he or she got started in the field. Better yet, make a lunch date with your boss’s boss. Or better still, reach out to colleague in another department that you admire, and ask him or her for advice on areas you feel you need to work on, such as project management, or public speaking.
It can be difficult to seek guidance when you are new to a profession. (Heck, I imagine it can be even more challenging to ask for advice when you are mid-career and beyond!) You might not even know that developing a mentoring relationship is an option, or you might not know what kind of mentor you need. However, I believe there are many unseen opportunities for mentorship in a professional setting that can be cultivated with relative ease. I think it is easy to forget that we can learn something from every professional interaction, and that one of the primary reasons we work in teams and departments is to work together, and therefore learn from one another.
So instead of making half-hearted pledges to run more, drink less, or actually clean my house, I think I’ll go with a more achievable, and less self-centered, resolution for 2014: appreciate and grow existing mentoring relationships by listening and learning from all of my colleagues.
* As Co-Chair of the SAA Mentoring Program Subcommittee, I must enthusiastically include a plug for volunteering to be an SAA mentor. As you may have previously read on Off the Record, we have an abundance of SAA members seeking mentorship, but an ongoing shortage of mentors. You do not need to be an expert in your field to have a genuinely positive impact on a student or new professional, so please consider volunteering. A fantastic way to begin 2014!