When you’re just starting out, it can be tough to reach out to a mentor. You may be plagued by feelings of intimidation and self-doubt, among them, “What do I have to offer this person?”
Believe me when I say this, you DO have something to offer. After all, it’s a relationship. It takes two. Of course, much of a mentoring relationship is, in fact, the imparting of wisdom from the more experienced or elder individual to the younger. But, in fact, you may have a special skill set or perspective that your mentor can’t get anywhere else.
Think about the most engaging conversations you have experienced. They are usually dynamic and enjoyable because of the exchange, and mutual participation. Similarly, meaningful friendships and relationships are based on give-and-take and duality of contribution.
Here are the four unique elements that you can bring to your mentor | mentee relationship:
- Time. When you’re a hospital CEO, this precious resource is something you have little of, but as an emerging leader, you have the time to be flexible with scheduling. Be as selfless and accommodating as humanly possible. And you have the time to prepare for each meeting with your mentor, so you can really maximize the time she has carved away for you. It’s not what you directly bring to the table; sometimes, you just have the luxury of being a “listening ear,” being attuned to the information acquired from your mentor and identifying any areas where you can help out.
- Channels | Comnnections. From the outset, you may think your professional circle pales in comparison to that of your seasoned mentor (and in most every way, it probably does). But, in some subtle ways, your circle may be bigger than that of your mentor. Why? Because you know how to work social media platforms in a way he may not. You can get your mentor connected to other professionals in new ways—through online forums, for example, or you may have already identified an individual through your social network that can help your mentor and his organization.
- Resources. Closely tied to the other items, either because of your networking skills, established online presence or simply the luxury of having time, you’re in a position to be able to dig in and do research to solve a problem or issue your mentor may be grappling with. Can you imagine how grateful your mentor will be when she sees you’ve not only taken the time to really listen and recognize areas for improvement, but are able to match her up to any resources or individuals to address those issues?
- Expertise. What’s your sweet spot? By that, is social media not just a way of life to you—but something you really get excited about? Or is quality, or compliance, or advocacy your niche? Whatever area you’re drawn toward, improve upon your knowledge of it. Become a content expert. And then leverage your expertise in your mentoring relationship. You might be able to use your online community expertise to help deploy a social media initiative for your mentor’s physicians group. You just never know what can happen if you work your passion and put yourself out there.
So many times, as a new careerist or emerging leader, it comes back to “putting yourself out there;” first, getting beyond the insecurities you may have. Know that you are as much a part of the relationship as your mentor.
After that step (which may very well be the hardest part), it’s about being an active participant. Seizing the knowledge and opportunities the mentor may be putting before you even in casual conversations.
You just need to listen.
Be open to any areas where you can step up and shine.
It will energize you professionally, and has the added benefit of your looking really good to a person with considerable experience, clout and connections.
How about you? Have you had a great mentoring relationship experience where you have been able to contribute value to your mentor?