Have you heard the old apothegm, “It takes two to Tango?” While this is most certainly true for the Tango it also rings true in ‘mentorship' as well. So whether you be the novice RN fresh out of nursing school or the wise ol' owl with years of experience beneath your scrubs, I’ve written this piece for you.
It goes without saying that having a mentor can not only have an impact on your success as a nurse but can greatly lessen the time to which that success comes. What do I mean by success, you might ask? That depends on you. Each nurse, new and old alike, has in his or her mind a different idea and definition of success, albeit that definition tends to change and evolve much over time. No matter where success lies for you, having a mentor to help you along the way is the wisest of decisions. If you don’t have one yet or don’t particularly buy into the idea of nursing mentorship, please give me the honor of your attention for just a bit to make my case.
What is mentorship?
Although it sounds rather one-sided, I like the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of mentorship, "The guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution.” Mentorship is NOT a one-sided situation where the mentor gives his time to train or educate while the mentee holds no responsibility at all. You see, ‘mentorship' is a professional relationship between two people with certain expectations held by both the mentor and the mentee.
The mentee's expectation should be to receive valuable instruction and guidance, while adhering to the requests and “assignments" set forth by the mentor. The mentor’s expectation should be to provide valuable information, education, and training to a completely committed mentee that is proactive, teachable and demonstrates a willingness to follow through with assigned tasks.
Now let’s back up for a second. Why should you, the mentee, expect to adhere to these requests and assignments? This is for a variety of reasons. A good mentor will take time out of their schedule to really pour into a well-deserved mentee. This could be A LOT of time wasted if the mentee isn’t totally committed to the mentor/mentee relationship. If there’s no growth, there’s really no use, right? And let’s face it, the mentor isn’t the one that’s looking to benefit here, unless this is a protege type situation (which isn’t the kind of mentorship relationship I’m illustrating).
At times these “assignments” are really tests to see how truly committed you, the mentee, will be. Other times they will lead to growth that only occurs through action and personal experience. If you are consistently falling short with these requests (i.e. not completing them), it would be grounds to terminate the relationship by the mentor.
Why have a mentor?
So why would you want to put yourself in a situation where you might be doing some ‘extra’ work? Having a mentor can catapult you to heights you’ve most likely not even imagined for yourself, and sooner than you could trying to figure it all out for yourself. I suggest to everyone I speak to on this topic to look around at those they spend the most time with. Who are these people? Do they challenge you? Do they motivate you to do more, become more? Are your conversations stimulating? Are your thoughts and ideas challenged? Have you experienced gro
wth in different areas of your life by hanging out with these people? Most often the answers to these questions are a resounding ‘No’.
The reason for this is because the ones with whom we generally spend the most time are pretty much mirror reflections of ourselves. This will most certainly hinder growth, both personally and professionally. My granny always said, “If you’re the smartest one in the room, go to another room.” You know what? She was right!
Once I began seeking out personal mentors things changed for me in a big way. It’s almost like someone turned the ‘ambition’ switch on. I began to read books I wouldn’t have read. I began pushing myself in areas of my life I certainly wouldn’t have if I would have kept doing the same ole same ole. I even began to make more money! How does that happen? It happens because you begin to stand out from all those who continue to remain stagnant in their profession.Remember, your pay directly correlates with the VALUE you bring to the market place, whether that be in nursing or any other area.
How do you find a mentor?
One does not simply walk up to someone and ask “Will you be my mentor?” Most people, especially people who have a lot going on, may feel that being a mentor may take too much time and effort. They may feel that they can’t give you the time they feel you may need of them. Instead, you give them a gentle nudge. What I’ve found works goes a little like this. Find someone with whom you’d like to emulate. Reach out to them via email or on social media messenger, etc. Give them a complement, something that you really admire about them. If you know specifically what you’d like help with, ask for suggestions. “John, you really have it together. Is there something you would recommend if I was to…” At this point, once you get an answer from this person, respond back thanking them and telling them you are going to do what it is they suggested. Then follow it up with, “John, I’d really like to touch base with you back on this in a week or two. Would you be opposed to that?"
It seems simple, and it is! That is how a mentorship relationship starts. Always ask to get back to them in a week or so. After awhile the relationship will continue to grow. They may suggest you complete a task or assignment as I’ve mentioned above. At this point you’re in the driver's seat, so to speak. The longer you interact in this way the more the relationship will blossom.
I think it’s important to state here. You don’t have to personally interact with someone in order for them to be your mentor. One of my mentors is the late Jim Rohn. I listen to his audio’s, watch his YouTube videos and even read his books. He passed away a few years ago and he still mentors me through the work he left behind. Although, I must admit, I enjoy my mentors with whom I get to interact.
I hope I’ve made my point here. Mentorship really can catapult you to new heights in all areas of your life. I encourage you to take some time and get to a quiet place. Really analyze where you are and where you’d like to be in the next year, two years, or 5 years. Take notice of those people who are really excelling in those areas you’re interested in and then reach out to them. As the late Jim Rohn said, “The next five years doesn’t have to look like the last five years. For things to change you have to change. Don’t wish for less problems, look for more skills."
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I really appreciate you all. If you think this is worth sharing, please do so. If you’d like to chat, you can always find me on Twitter. Just click the link above.