Mentoring: The sometimes silent partnership

06 Jun

Mentor word cloud

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Having someone to guide the way can be truly beneficial…

But what do you do if you do not have anyone to mentor you?  I stumbled upon this issue when changing careers, I found myself knee-deep in a new world without much guidance as to what I should do next.  In my previous career, I had a vast network of people to call upon if I needed help, or even just an ear that was willing to listen.  However, as I migrated into the programming world, I quickly discovered that my existing network lacked those that could help me in my new endeavors.

Having a mentor can be a very rewarding experience for both parties.  I know in my experience, I’ve benefited from mentoring others and from having a mentor.  Naturally, I felt a bit of panic having my network vanish beneath my feet.

Now we know the issue, what’s the solution? 

Before I get into the solution, I really want to address how I made assumptions about my network when changing careers.  The mentor relationship that I was accustomed to was more traditional in its execution.  For instance, the mentors that I had previously, worked in my company at various levels and in different locations.  Interaction in these relationships consisted of visits and lunch meetings where goals and struggles were discussed freely.  Because I had such a narrow definition of what mentoring was, my despair on finding a “mentor” grew exponentially.

My success in being mentored changed once I redefined what mentoring was for myself.  The bare bones definition of mentoring is simply to train or advise someone.  It is with this basic definition that I sought to be mentored in a different way.

A stalker is was born…

That’s right, I said it… I’m a stalker.  I’m not the traditional stalker that hides behind bushes, snapping creepy photographs of my prey.  However, I have become a digital stalker.  I find those that are known as the best in an area and I follow their work.  I read what they have to say about a topic and I implement the things I learn, all while tracking my own success.  Having many different mentors for different subject areas means that I can have the best of the best for each topic I am studying.  This modified mentorship got me from square one when I was just beginning and has led to other opportunities through interacting with my prey (figured I should continue with this theme) via social media outlets.  One of the great aspects of being a part of the tech world is that techies love to discuss their craft!  I was surprised to discover that the people I looked up to were willing to share and interact with aspiring developers.

What developed is a comfortable melding of mentors and friends…

I also have been trying to make sure that I do not limit the scope of who I consider as mentors.  Since I decided to transition careers (I can’t believe it’s almost been 2 years now), I have met some great people in the programming world.  I consider these people my friends, because they are.  However, I also see a few of them as mentors, ones whose brains I can cultivate 🙂 at different intervals when I need information or just simply their perspective.

There are also tools available that can help… 

I have to note that there are tools available to some who seek traditional mentoring relationships.  Many schools have programs that link students with mentors, which is a great resource.  Actually, I currently mentor entering freshmen, helping to get them acclimated to our school and setting them up for success.  So, I know that there are programs that can be beneficial.  However, what I found is that these mentors provide general career advice, not advice that really gets down to the specifics.  Even if you’re lucky and get a mentor through these types of programs that is on the same path as you (or has substantial knowledge of the path you’re on), it’s still a great practice to learn from as many great sources as you can muster!

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Posted by on June 6, 2015 in Self Improvement, STEM


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