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The essential role of a mentor.

At any point in our careers, we can all benefit from the advice of experienced professionals we admire. Similarly, as our expertise grows, we can serve as mentors for up-and-coming individuals who are starting to rise.

Mentors are special people who willingly donate their time to those aspiring to greater professional heights. The wisdom they shower on others brings nourishment to the laboratory community indefinitely.

I met my first mentor during a professional laboratory association meeting in New Orleans about five years ago at a workshop she was leading entitled "The Times Are A-Changin.'" As she urged the audience to become leaders and make improvements in our field, her passion for living and her love of clinical laboratory science radiated through the crowd.

When the workshop ended, I eagerly approached her, asking how to become the kind of leader she had advocated so forcefully. She promptly handed me her business card and said, "Give me a call when you get home. I'd love to talk with you." Her name is Bettina Martin.

Through the years, Betty and I have developed a special relationship. She has given me advice, support, and that rare but invaluable commodity - objective criticism. When I first met her, I was struggling to spread my wings and learn to fly. Sometimes I fell; yet she always seemed to know when to check on my status.

One day when I was wallowing in a puddle of self-pity and wondering whether becoming a changemaker was worth the struggle, Betty called. After listening attentively, she provided the words of encouragement that lifted my low-altitude attitude.

Thanks to my superb mentor, I have gained enormous confidence in my abilities and a drive to make a difference. If the times are a-changin' - and they surely are - I want to help make those changes. As a true mentor, Betty has taught me not only a great deal about my own priorities but also how to carry the torch as a mentor myself. She has had the same effect on many other laboratorians.

* Role model. I encourage every manager and supervisor to become a mentor to at least one employee. You can make a big difference in someone's life, and to the laboratory community at large, simply by saying, "I believe in you." Some suggestions follow.

[paragraph] Take the lead. Initiate interaction with your mentorees. Some individuals will be too timid to approach you for fear of being rejected. Propose a game plan right away, outlining a strategy for making the relationship grow. You might start by explaining why you singled that person out of the crowd.

[paragraph] Communicate. Share stories about the development of your career. Answer mentorees' questions frankly. Urge them to share their personal experiences, immediate plans, and long-term career goals. Weigh their comments and provide them with honest feedback.

[paragraph] Be "shadowed." Invite mentorees to "shadow" you on the job. Suggest that they accompany you to various meetings. Afterward, discuss their impressions. Coauthor papers for professional journals and present workshops together at professional meetings. Permit them to use your name as a reference on applications for jobs or for advanced degrees or credentials. Introduce them to other professionals in the field who may boost their careers.

* Always of value. Are you currently in search of a mentor? If not, you should be. It never hurts to hear advice from a more seasoned professional.

Be open, honest, and sincere in your desire to grow professionally. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Take on the challenges involved in attaining your professional goals and dreams. Let it be known that you are a prospective mentoree worthy of a mentor's time.

Once you have found a mentor, allow that person to set the tone of the relationship. During discussions, use active listening skills. Maintain eye contact, nod your head, laugh when appropriate, and don't interrupt. Make it clear to your mentor that you understand the dialogue going on between you.

Ask your mentor open-ended, thought-provoking questions. Solicit advice openly; then seriously consider taking it. Never make excuses for your performance.

Remember that your mentor has volunteered to share valuable time and expertise with you. Express your appreciation for his or her support and guidance regularly.

* Special bond. The relationship between mentor and mentoree is a special one. I encourage every laboratorian to seek out such a relationship from both directions. Our field will always need more mentors to support professionals who want to grow into the soaring leaders and change makers of tomorrow.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hendrix, Bonnie B.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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