Serving as a mentor brings benefits


If you become a mentor, you too will benefit will probably be repaid in spades for your efforts. Here’s why:

* You will gain satisfaction from contributing to a worthy professional’s success. Take it from someone who has mentored hundreds of professionals — if not thousands, through individual sessions and seminars — it is exhilarating to help hard-working, smart and persistent professionals succeed, and then to rightfully take part in the resulting celebratory high-fives, back slaps and toasts.

* As most educators say: The more you teach — and mentor — the more you learn yourself. Any type of teaching, including mentoring, helps the teacher or mentor improve his ability to logically explain concepts and insights. And as you feed your ideas to your mentee, you will learn more about the type of responses they generate and how well they can be implemented — i.e., what works and what doesn’t.

* Mentoring may give you opportunities to connect with individuals of other generations and cultures who may have information or skills that would help you refresh or advance your skills. Suppose, for example, that you’re a technologically unsavvy baby boomer mentoring a recent college graduate. You could recruit your mentee to help you get up to speed on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

* Your successful mentoring of a worthy professional will increase the quality of the next generation of federal leaders. “And if you have two hands, you should be helping to lift up two people,” Amicita Maloon-Gibson, an executive coach and co-author of the bestselling book, “Stepping Stones to Success,” said in an interview.

* By spreading your knowledge and insights to others, you can ensure that they will be applied long after you retire. You will thereby create an unofficial legacy for your career.

* If you mentor professionals from underrepresented groups — such as members of minority groups, women and veterans — you will help increase the diversity of the federal work force.

The overarching goal of mentors is usually to help mentees reach their full potential. Some ways to get your relationship off to a good start:

* “Work with your mentee to identify his or her short-term and long-term goals and important milestones along the way,” said Farrell Chiles, who mentored several employees as part of the Greater Los Angeles Federal Executive Board’s Associate Leadership Program.

For example, your mentee’s short-term goal might be to acquire a certain type of experience required for acceptance into the Senior Executive Service, and his long-term goal might be to land an SES job. In such a case, an important milestone might be getting certified for the SES by the Office of Personnel Management.

* Set reasonable boundaries for your relationship. “For example, you might want to explain to your mentee from the outset that you are available to help him or her plan the future, discuss alternative solutions to problems, provide advice and guidance through thorny situations, and/or offer your perspective on other challenges,” Chiles said. “But you can’t solve mentees’ problems or make decisions for them.”

So suppose your mentee is composing an e-mail on a sensitive topic. He would probably benefit from your editorial prowess, fresh eyes and experienced perspective. Nevertheless, your mentee shouldn’t expect you to write the e-mail for him or determine whether he should take your suggestions.

* Show a positive, upbeat attitude. “I always try to focus on the promise of the future,” Chiles said. “Obviously, we can’t change the past. Mentees should hopefully learn new lessons and move forward.”

* Never hold back on deserved encouragement and praise. Be honest, but deliver any suggestions or corrections gingerly and gently.

* End every session on a hopeful, inspirational note


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