Mentorship Is a Two-Way Street
Several decades ago, I found myself right out of graduate school and in the unique position of having three opportunities at the same time. I had an opportunity to work for government, business or nonprofit. I chose nonprofit because I wanted to give back to society and help others. I also wanted to obtain my doctorate degree and felt working at the University of Louisville would place me on the right academic track.
The good news is I chose to work for the university. The bad news is I had no mentor to help me navigate through a brand-new profession. I survived, but realized over time I had wished for that mentor to help lay the groundwork for career success. I ended up in a jungle with only a large machete to help me.
According to Sky’s the Limit, a mentor can provide support that is emotional, tangible, informational and partnering in nature. As you think about the goals that you would like to attain, you determine what kind of mentor you would need to meet the requirements you are seeking. Mentors can help you build qualities, develop skills and change behaviors. Over time, mentors become part of your professional network for a long period of time.
Indeed notes that mentors act as advisers to people less experienced than them, usually in the same or desired field of endeavor. The mentor helps the mentee grow as a professional. These relationships over time can be build through networks, personal connections, or formal mentorship programs. Mentors are important because they support growth, serve as a source of knowledge, help set personal goals, maintain accountability, offers encouragement, are great listeners, become trusted allies, offer constructive feedback, provide guidelines, have relevant experience and are a free resource.
There is only so much you can do on your own and that is why you need a mentorship relationship. A Get Fully Funded article promotes this concept. Success usually comes with help. The nonprofit sector is a strong community full of people willing to help each other. Regardless of your position in a nonprofit, if you aspire to a career in a nonprofit, do your homework and decide on what position and organization interests you.
Once a position is attained, which is generally entry level, immediately seek an experienced mentor inside plus outside the organization for assistance. The greater the feedback the better off you will be prepared for your growth and development. The mentorship process will reduce your stress and you will gain confidence. Over time, as you gain experience, you should consider giving back to the profession by being a mentor.
Mentors are important in every facet of life, including the nonprofit profession. This activity can be traced by the ancient Greece, according to Educause research. In the '70s, corporate America defined mentoring as a career development strategy. A mentor relationship between two parties should involve striving for mutual benefits, agreeing on confidentiality, and being committed to honesty.
Mentors and mentees should listen and learn and build a working partnership. The mentoring goal is to lead by example and be flexible with each other. Different types of mentors that you need to look for include the wise leader, the life coach, the teacher, informal peers, the confidante, self-help mentor and the inner mentor. In finding a mentor, the key is to establish goals of the relationship and determine what is needed for success.
A University of the People blog found that mentors serve as a sounding board for their mentees. The relationship is built on a two-way street of give and take between one another. A mentor must be a trusted adviser. A mentor needs to provide knowledge, help a mentee improve, broaden their professional network, provide continuous encouragement, always advise, learn from mentees mistakes and be costless.
Some ways to find a mentor include connecting on social media, enrolling in a professional network, hiring a consultant, talking to peers about their experiences or joining an organization, like the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) that has mentor programs. In fact, I have served on several AFP Indiana Chapter mentoring committees through the years, for example. If you feel you need a mentor, seek one today.
Conversely, if you have gained experience through the years and want to give back to help others in the nonprofit profession, be a mentor. An Art of Mentoring article provides 11 reasons why you should become a mentor. These reasons include:
- Become a better leader.
- Learn more about your company or profession.
- Achieve personal career gains.
- Shape the leaders of tomorrow.
- Step outside your usual circle of friends and associates.
- Put your finger on the pulse of a younger generation.
- Change someone’s world.
- Exercise emotional intelligence.
- Strengthen the lessons you have already learned.
- Improve productivity.
- Feel good about yourself.
In addition, a University of People blog emphasizes that being a mentor can improve your communication skills, reinforce your own knowledge, enhance your CV, broaden your network, gain recognition, provide a sense of fulfillment and growth, plus improve leadership skills. Indeed believes reasons for being a mentor include the fact that mentoring boosts interpersonal skills, strengthens knowledge and expands your network.
Also, being a mentor allows someone to receive recognition, establish leadership skills, learn, build confidence, gain new perspectives, provide a sense of fulfilment, offer self-reflection opportunities, and strengthen a nonprofit. Nonprofit Hub thinks employees being a mentor is an extension of a nonprofit's work. Your shared experience with others will greatly benefit other nonprofits as a multiplier effect. It also helps you to connect with people that could help you and your nonprofit.
Mentorship is a two-way street. It should be a give-and-take process. Be both a mentee and mentor over time. Receive advice and guidance from those who have already been where you plan to go. Over time, be prepared to give your knowledge and experience to others by paying it forward. Through the years, I have mentored many colleagues. I cannot tell you the positive feeling I get from that mutual experience. I have never refused a call to help and never will. Giving to others is part of my DNA. I strive to make a difference and promote our profession. My sincere hope is that others are doing the same. I am certain they are and that is why the nonprofit sector is special and many choose this sector as their career path.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.