The Magic of Mentoring – Part 1
How mentoring helps you get on professionally and personally.
I remember looking at Asia on the map, really wanting to travel on my own but the longer I stared the bigger it seemed to get.
I remember my first days as a trainee teacher when I thought I had to have everything I would say planned out, pristine and perfect.
The one about the prawns: after a few minutes the bar man came over with a kind smile and asked the solo diner with the reddening face if I needed a hand.
The one about the travelling: my good friend, Bronwen, who had travelled solo to Asia, suggested I try out Vietnam to give me a flavor of backpacking alone in that region.
The one about the trainee teacher: my wise and caring tutor, Colleen, observed me teach and gently told me that the person in that classroom who was giving me the hardest time was myself.
Your mentor has your back and she’ll meet you where you are
I am so thankful to these people who gave me supportive feedback to nudge myself forward when I felt embarrassed, confused or stressed out.
These examples all show the value of mentoring on even pretty fundamental life skills: eating, travelling and working.
It can be all too easy to think that everyone has things sussed out when in reality we are all works in progress: we all have days when things just click and days that present hurdle after hurdle.
Mentoring is about creating a safe space where you can turn up soaring or turn up small: and it’s totally okay. Your mentor has your back and she’ll meet you where you are and support and guide you to where you want to be.
I’m about to join a new mentoring programme where I’ll be both mentoring and mentored with an inspiring group of people, PWN Amsterdam, part of PWN Global, a professional development networking organization accelerating gender balanced leadership.
For me, this couldn’t come at a better time.
I’ve recently moved from Reykjavik to Amsterdam and each day presents me with a new set of skills to learn and places and people to get to know. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and yes, I’ve had days when I have been soaring and secure and days when I’ve felt small and a little shaky.
And that’s okay, it’s a journey.
Learning a new skill means that your control will be dodgy for a while.
I’m sure that you’re the same when you’re on a new journey, so here are 3 things to remember and help you.
Careful with the steering
So, you’re trying something new and off you go moving forward, making progress and getting to your new destination e.g. more confidence, a new skill.
Can you remember your first time on a bike or your first driving lesson? Learning a new skill means that your control will be dodgy for a while. You’ll even bump into a few things.
I remember the hardest thing about my first driving lessons was the steering. I would fixate on the car hood rather than beyond the car hood to where I was going.
So, when you’re learning a new skill focus beyond the car hood. This can take practice and patience.
Be kind to yourself as you try out new things.
Get your go to place ready
Find a go to place – by this I mean a place where you can stop, really stop and take a rest and escape for a while from the doing, doing, doing.
Chances are if you’re adding mentoring or being mentored to a pretty full life then that’s going to stretch you and keep you very busy. But it’s important not to be in 5th gear all of the time.
Go and watch the ducks on the local pond, take a yoga class, or phone that friend who makes you giggle.
It’s your private glass cabinet with the words “Break in case of emergency.”
As you grow and stretch and develop your new skills having breaks is important.
Get your go to place sorted out.
Find your sanctuary person
This is like the go to place but your sanctuary is there for you on the really wobbly days. It’s your private glass cabinet with the words “Break in case of emergency.”
Who can you talk to and just totally be yourself with?
This is the person in your glass cabinet.
Time with this person will help you recharge, restore and repair.
This could be a special person in your life. Or it could be your dog.
The important thing is that you can be you where you are at the time, sharing a comfortable silence or a listening ear, or having a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of wine. (If your Golden Retriever can open a bottle of Shiraz, you have a very special sanctuary there.)
Find your sanctuary.
So, to recap:
Careful with the steering: learning is a process of trial and error. Be gentle with yourself.
Get your go to place ready: when your head is full and you need a break this will provide you with the space to do that.
Find your sanctuary person: find a person who gives you unconditional support to help you through the tough stuff.
Once you’ve committed to the journey of being a mentor or mentee and set up your safe spaces for recharging and absorbing new knowledge and skills, you’re good to go.
Your journey will be rewarding and full of new adventures and greater destinations than you could ever reach on your own.
I’d love to hear your experience of mentoring or being mentored.
What was the experience like for you? How did it make a difference?