Looking back, I can now see that I had mentors at pivotal points in my career. In both cases these were older, more experienced women, well connected in the community. These were never defined mentor-mentee relationships, rather they were based on a mutual recognition for what we could accomplish together. Although this was in a paid work setting, it applies equally well in the voluntary sector.
My mentors were both excellent listeners. When we met, in person or by phone, there were no distractions or disruptions to our conversations. Listening, clarifying, and problem defining were all part of what we did together. My mentors were also very valuable resource providers. “I like the way Jane presents her information”; “Did you have a chance to see this article?” “I will introduce you to so-and-so who knows more about this than I do.”
There is a role for mentors in our world too. Sometimes it can be a defined role, as is my role as Past President on our IOKDS Board of Directors. But it doesn’t need to be that formal. It can be a role built on mutual trust and a willingness by both mentor and mentee to be available to each other. This has to begin with the recognition that help is needed and help is available. That can be hard to do. To a certain extent it means setting aside a degree of pride – on both sides. The mentor must recognize that she will learn as well as coach. The mentee must recognize that there is wisdom to be found in the experience of the other.
If you have taken on a role in IOKDS leadership with your Circle, Union or Branch – find your mentor. You will be glad you did.