Could Your Career Use a Mentor?
A few weeks ago, I visited a man I mentored when he was in his first fundraising job after a successful decade working in the for-profit world. He's now the vice president of development at a growing nonprofit, and his career continues on an upward projectile. I am very proud to call him a colleague, and I like to think that I played a small role in his success.
While having a mentor wasn't the magic bullet for his (or anyone's career), a mentor/mentoree relationship can be very beneficial for both parties. Several local chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals offer mentoring opportunities, as do other professional groups.
So, is it time for you to find a mentor — or be a mentor? Take this short career checkup, and see if mentoring is what the doctor orders.
Are you fairly new in fundraising?
A mentor won’t take the place of continuing education or reading magazines and books — or experience — but he or she can help point you to the most useful opportunities for learning. Your mentor can also teach you a few things that you may not learn from seminars and reading — things that are often only learned by trial and error. Look for a mentor who has specific skills that you are most in need of. For example, if you are uncertain how to measure your fundraising success and make decisions based on the numbers, seek a mentor who has strong analytic skills and is able to explain concepts in language you can understand.
Are you stuck in your career or unable to think beyond the current situation?
Remember, a mentor isn’t a magician to help you solve your problems, but he or she may be able to help you think through options, explore possibilities, think outside the box and all the other clichés out there. Sometimes spending time thinking about what could be (instead of always focusing on what is) can help. But never look for a mentor to make the decisions you don’t want to make yourself. Instead, look for a mentor who can help you learn new things and explore ways to apply them.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.