Mentors are all around you. These experienced and trusted advisers can be bosses, coworkers, friends, family members, neighbors, community members, coworkers, and children, to name a few. They provide modeling, education, feedback, and growth in both your professional and personal development. Are you utilizing your mentors? If not, you could be missing out.
Consider these 6 ways to better utilize your mentors:
- Identify. Who are your mentors? It’s important to be able to identify your mentors in order to strategically utilize their influence. Some of your mentors may be easy to identify either because they clearly have a great impact on you or because they perform a typical mentorship role, such as that of a teacher, parent, or boss. Yet, it’s important to identify those who have a less obvious influence on you, or those who occupy roles that you wouldn’t commonly think of as a mentorship roles. Mentors can be neighbors, children, friends, friends of friends, or community members. Take some time to identify and appreciate all of your mentors.
- Initiate Interactions. This method may seem obvious, yet it’s often forgotten. You need to interact with your mentors in order for them to have an impact on you, and you cannot always wait for them to initiate such interactions. Many mentors expect their mentees to initiate interactions with them without prompting or permission. Staying in connection with your mentors maintains and strengthens your relationships with them. Consider initiating consistent interactions with your mentors, even if it’s just a simple check-in ever now and then.
- Ask For What You Need. Many mentees are concerned that they are inconveniencing their mentors when they reach out to them for guidance. As a result, they don’t ask, and they don’t get what they need. Consider this: If your mentor is an adult, they are responsible for their own boundaries. If they cannot or don’t wish to help you, then they are responsible for letting you know; not the other way around. For example, a colleague of mine needed advice for providing specific treatment to a client in therapy. I specialize in this type of treatment, yet she was hesitant to ask me because she feared that I didn’t have the time. However, she overcame this fear and asked me anyway, and I was able to provide her with the information and guidance that she needed. If I didn’t have the time, I would have told her so. In the end, I was glad that she asked.
- Be Vulnerable. The more vulnerable you are with your mentor, the more likely your mentor will be able to understand and help you. Sometimes people pretend to know things that they don’t know, report that they are capable of performing actions or roles outside their expertise, or simply wish to appear to be fine when they are not. For example, if your mentor suggests that you give a public speech in order to increase your visibility, yet you’re terrified of public speaking, you should tell them. This may help your mentor better adjust their advice to your own strengths and limitations in order to meet your needs more effectively. Your level of vulnerability with your mentor depends upon the level of trust and safety you experience in the relationship.
- Provide Feedback. There might be certain ways that your mentor is impactful. If so, tell them. There may be methods that your mentor practices that are not helpful. If so, let them know. Why? This will allow your mentor to focus on what’s having the most impact on you and to avoid those practices that are less helpful. For example, a mentee once told me, “I like it when you give me specific examples as opposed to discussing generalizations.” This was the information that I needed in order to tailor my methods to meet their needs.
- Pay it Forward. There is great value in having a mentor, but there is also great value in being a mentor. There is evidence that serving as a mentor can have a positive impact on your emotional health. Consider being a mentor to others, and pass onto them what you’ve received from your own mentors.
Mentors can have a vital impact on your life, if you let them. Consider practicing these methods to best utilize your mentors. Contact Symmetry Counseling today to arrange an appointment for family, relationship, or couples counseling in Chicago.