Many of us may have had someone in our career that provided influence, guidance and offered reinforcement, feedback or constructive criticism when needed. You know; that chief or company officer, who seemed to take you under thier wing and watchful eye in the street or at the least, spoke to you in the back of the apparatus bay when everyone else was in the day room. It was that seasoned veteran or senior member who always seemed to have a bigger picture and insights on what was happening both on the fireground as well as in quarters, who shared words of wisdom or nuggets of information that helped in our individual progress, development and growth. Many of the lessons and insights related to me, both as a young firefighter and as I transitioned to an officer have stayed with me to this day. Formal or informal, recognized or unacknowledged; mentors play a very real and important part in the development of a firefighter, company officer and chief officer. The opportunities for mentorship never pass with rank or position. On the contrary, the need magnifies and grows as you transition and move through the ranks and positions of responsibility and authority.
Definition of Mentoring
Mentoring is a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else. We all have a need for insight that is outside of our normal life and educational experience. The power of mentoring is that it creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity for collaboration, goal achievement and problem-solving. Traditionally, mentoring might have been described as the activities conducted by a person (the mentor) for another person (the mentee) in order to help that other person to do a job more effectively and/or to progress in their career. The mentor was probably someone who had "been there, done that" before. A mentor might use a variety of approaches, eg, coaching, training, discussion, counseling, etc. The Merriam-Webster WWWebster Dictionary defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide
What is a mentor?
A mentor facilitates personal and professional growth in an individual by sharing the knowledge and insights that have been learned through the years.
(DOT Mentoring Handbook, p2 http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/mentor/mentorhb.htm)
Teacher; share your knowledge and experience as a former USC student.
Problem solver; refer mentees to resources and offer options.
Motivator; when mentee is facing a challenging class, for example:This is done through encouragement, support, and incentives.
Coach; help mentee to overcome performance difficulties through positive feedback (reinforce behavior) and constructive feedback (change behavior).
Guide; help mentee to set realistic goals. Five goal setting factors: specific, time-framed, results oriented, relevant, and reachable. “If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know how to get there.”
What is a mentee?
A mentee is an achiever–”groomed” for advancement by being provided opportunities to excel beyond the limits of his or her position.
(DOT Mentoring Handbook, p3 http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/mentor/mentorhb.htm)Learner; a strong desire to learn new skills and abilities
Decision maker; take charge of your education
Initiator; mentee is willing to explore challenges on their own initiative.
Risk taker; “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate,” quote by Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of IBM.
Goal setter; if you know where you are going, people are willing to help guide you.
Mentorship refers to a developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person—who can be referred to as a protégé, or apprentice -- to develop in a specified capacity.
"Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)" (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007).
Think about where you fit into this process. Is there someone in your company, station or department that you see some potential in? Is there someone who could benefit from some level of encouragement, support or direction? Are you in need of some advice, feedback or guidance? Think about the possibilities, start communicating, get involved.
Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that, "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." And indeed, mentors are doing kindness when they take on the responsibility of helping other people learn from their experiences. Through this, they can give back to society and make career growth, personal development, or intellectual achievement possible for the person they are mentoring.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” ~ Albert Pine
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For a different look at things, check out Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture"