When people think of mentoring, the images of an apprentice learning from his master are often rendered. The senior blacksmith guiding his pupil through the craft he has spent his life perfecting. Over the years mentoring has changed, and today it is used throughout business to guide the greenhorns throughout their craft, or even life. But the idea that this advice must come from a wise old sage is a bit passé.In today’s world, the 1:1 ratio of mentor to apprentice isn’t common place. While you will still find these relationships around the world, the world has changed, and technology has helped us evolve. As a matter of fact, I believe the Cisco Champions program is fundamentally a group of mentors. We are all selected because we participate in social media, we blog, we have a sense of community. Because of all of these things, I believe many of us are already indirectly mentoring the community as a whole. But I wanted to mainly focus here on the local mentoring you do in your daily work life.
- Listen – In any relationship the power of listening is massive, just ask a therapist what their number one tool is. When you take the time to listen, you are showing support and encouragement. Once you have taken the time to listen and understand, the advice you provide will be much more valuable.
- Never stop learning – A career in IT means that you can never stop learning, lest your skills become antiquated. This just doesn’t mean you should keep up on the industry changes, or take a class on some new technology every year. I believe that it’s important for everyone to have their own mentor(s). It’s not always just about the technology, but sometimes the methodologies, and strategies that we can learn from our peers are much more important.
- Be committed – Being a mentor is a commitment, it certainly takes time and effort, but it is an investment! You spend your time and energy into your pupils, but you end up getting much more out of the experience. Be sincere, and interested in their development. Remember that your fledgling is easily demotivated by your indifference towards their development.
- Be open-minded – Some folks say that the best way to truly learn a subject is to teach it to others. Teaching is rewarding in that you get to not only review the subject matter for yourself, but you get to answer questions you may of never thought of. Also remember to listen, as some folks will never see your side of a discussion unless they’re convinced that you’ve understood theirs.
- Blog – And participate in social media, because sharing information is important. It is easier today than ever to share knowledge and incite discussion amongst the community of your peers. And because of that, it is easier than ever to reach out for help and guidance. So remember, when someone does, be a mentor. Listen, Understand, and most of all, try to help!
There are 5 ways you can become a (better) mentor. But I imagine many of you are asking why… Mentoring isn’t just about taking care of a junior staff member, it’s great for you in many different ways. First of all, helping others provides a wonderful feeling. Especially when you’re able to help make a difference in their lives! In addition, teaching is a wonderful tool that not only helps educate the student, but also forces you to continue your own learning to stay ahead with your advice.
I hope this has convinced some of you to step up your mentoring game in 2015. I certainly hope to spend more time at a white board this year myself.
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