Peer Mentor Network

Monday, May 15, 2006

To Find a Mentor – Be a Student

I was lucky. In my first job after college, I had a marvelous mentor who took an active role in my career development.

He pushed. I listened.

Actually, make that hung on every word. Because the fact that someone at the top of their profession would take time out to coach a newbie like me was a gift…and I knew it.

Example: When I asked for a raise, he made me “demonstrate I was worth it” by:

First, reading a series of books (How to Win Friends and Influence People, etc.)

Then, writing a paper about what I learned from each one and

Finally, by finding an operational problem in the office and solving it using TQM processes. (The result was a binder of information and charts.)

Along the way, there were a lot of naysayers who thought my boss was just stalling because he didn’t want to pay me more. In fact, many people I spoke to were borderline appalled that someone would have to jump through so many hoops to earn a raise that they were entitled to anyway.

But I knew better.

In the five years since, my mentor has had many new professionals work under him and yet he’s had no official “mentee” since me. Last week, I asked him why.

His response? “No students.”

The point is that finding a mentor is only half the battle. After that, you must be a good student. Listen gratefully. Apply what you’ve learned to your work. Demonstrate enthusiasm so he/she feels their investment in you is meaningful.

It’s not the quickest route to success by any stretch, but I promise you the journey is its own reward.


  • What a great opportunity for me to introduce our newest contributor and West Virginia connection, Emily Bennington. Please visit her blog archives for some great posts on mentoring and career development.

    She makes a living doing this stuff and writes much better than I do. We look forward to hearing more from you Emily! Thanks!

    By Blogger hops, at Monday, May 15, 2006  

  • What a fantastic post! I wholeheartedly appreciate you sharing your approach to the mentor/mentee relationship and could not agree more.

    I must admit I’ve been a rather poor student when it comes to the fortunate interactions I’ve had with formal and peer mentors. I have an embarrassing stack of books, referred to me that I have yet to complete. I guess the books won’t read themselves.

    The ball is in my court and my lack of action begs the question, “Do I really care?” The answer is yes and Emily, thank you for the wakeup call.

    By Anonymous big league, at Wednesday, May 17, 2006  

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