0 Springing Forward: Moving Toward Possibility
- by Kim Wheeler
Spring is in the air, and with it, a sense of new possibilities. The scene is perfectly set for mentoring partnerships to narrow in on how the mentoree can grow and prepare for future opportunities. Pairs can revisit the mentoree’s long-term professional ambitions and delve into the skills, experiences, networking, and planning that can help them get there.
Skills. What technical skills will the mentoree need to develop or hone to be competitive as they advance in their careers? Identifying educational requirements, professional training, or development opportunities the mentoree can build into their plan will set them on the right path and provide a roadmap to the future. Beyond technical skills specific to a certain field, mentorees can also work to build transferable skills that are not specific to a single job but can be adapted in different roles. For example, an employee’s communication skills can be a huge help or a huge hindrance. These skills are used constantly in most workplaces and strongly impact how an employee and their work is perceived. Does the mentoree speak effectively and write well? How do they fare at influencing, negotiating, and persuading others? Are they comfortable listening and providing feedback? How confident are they delivering presentations or providing training to others? Considering the position the mentoree hopes to achieve, identify other skills they will need to be competitive for and successful in that role, such as leadership, project management, or planning and research.
Experiences. Experience is an important but tricky thing, especially for those early in their career. As many graduating college students lament, you need a job to gain experience, but often struggle to land a job without experience. While those already in the workforce don’t face quite the same predicament, it can be challenging to compete for advanced positions without the experience those positions would provide. However, mentorees can proactively seek opportunities now to build experience they will need later. To gain technical experience, they could ask to assist with organizational projects or working groups, arrange a recurring shadowing opportunity that would expose them to a certain process or operation, or identify an external volunteer opportunity that would provide relevant experience. For example, if a mentoree needs project management experience and isn’t able to identify an opportunity at work, they could seek out a community volunteer opportunity that would allow them to lead and manage a project, not only gaining that experience but learning dos and don’ts they can carry forward to future professional projects.
Networking. Regardless of a mentoree’s professional field or objectives, building a strong network is one of the most important things they can do. Networking is more than collecting business cards from everyone they meet—employees can develop strategic business relationships with people at all levels and positions in the organization. Who could potentially help them gain experience, visibility, or credibility? Developing a targeted list of potential connections and designating time to network with them could be instrumental in laying the path for mentorees to move forward in the future. Many organizations have committees, working groups, or extracurricular opportunities, like Toastmasters. Mentorees should familiarize with opportunities in their agency to get outside their team and interact. And if the opportunity to connect with a key contact isn’t available through those means, reaching out to request situational mentoring is a great way to start a professional relationship!
Planning. The bulk of career planning involves the mentoree preparing for their next role. And it begins with understanding realistic career path timelines that will help them to backward-plan and ensure they hit milestones along the way. Looking at the average career advancement in a given field, mentorees can assess how much time they have to gain the skills, experience, and networking connections they will need to help assure their continued progress. From there, it’s a matter of identifying opportunities to achieve the necessary growth in each of those areas and getting to work! It’s never to early to start thinking, planning, and acting ahead.
Ask a Mentor
Here are some questions mentoring pairs can discuss to ensure a well-rounded mentoring experience.
- Discuss the roles the mentoree would like to hold in 5 years, 10 years, and the position they ultimately hope to reach. How long, realistically, does it take to achieve those roles?
- What technical and transferable skills will they need to build along the path to each of those three roles? What are some ways the mentor has honed those skills?
- What specific experience will they need to acquire to compete for those roles? How has the mentor gained needed experience they weren’t able to get directly in their role?
- What are some strategic connections the mentoree should develop? How might the mentoree go about networking with those individuals?
- Does the mentoree have a long-term career plan? Does it incorporate steps to gain the skills, experience, and connections that will help them move forward?