Over the past couple weeks I've had in-person, on the phone, and email conversations with mentees from all three years of my own little mentor program. I've rejoiced in one new job; heard stories of grandparents who marched across that bridge in Selma fifty years ago; talked about why it all matters, the work we do; puzzled over objects and emotions; and got my thoughts around some ideas about object interpretation for a call later this week.
I started my mentor program because I thought perhaps I had something to pass forward. I'd had many people in my own professional life who had mentored me along the way and whose lessons I still remember. But I'm finding out that I'm getting back far more than I'm putting in. My own network expands with each of our deepening conversations and my chance to learn about other people's lives, histories, and ambitions only broadens my own world view.
So here's the question. Why aren't more of you mentors? I hear some pretty regular complaints from experienced colleagues about young professionals not understanding, or not wanting to work hard like we did, or .... . I like to suggest that more of us need to step up as mentors--and that you don't have to have been in the field forever to be one. This morning, I read this about how scarcity thinking holds nonprofits back. I think we've got far too much scarcity thinking in how we approach our colleagues as well. Our field needs to be abundant and generous, welcoming all kinds of people, with all kinds of training, all kinds of viewpoints, and all kinds of experiences. Yes, you can find the time.
A challenge to our service organizations: AAM, AASLH and NCPH. How about establishing working, nurturing mentor programs? What are you waiting for when there's a clear need?
Special thanks for this post's to Alicia Akins, Megan Wood, Catherine Charlebois, Shakia Gullette and Susan Fohr, my mentees, past and present, for inspiring a blue sky future.