April is National Preceptor Month! Preceptors make a difference in the lives of students who are learning to become registered dietitian nutritionists or dietetic technicians, registered by acting as mentors and training the dietetic professionals of the future. Learn how to get involved in the future of the profession.
One night I got a frantic call right before dinner. It was my mentee. "I have a big interview tomorrow and have no idea what they're going to ask or what type of salary I should request!" she said. After talking for a half hour, she had a plan and nailed the next day's interview and was happily on her way to her first big job.
A prized tool for your career toolbox, being involved in a mentor-mentee relationship is not to be overlooked. Whether you're wondering if a certain practice area is for you or you've been working for a few years and are looking for a change, finding and working with a mentor should be No. 1 on your to-do list.
The best mentor is someone with experience and expertise in the specific professional areas that you want to move into. Interestingly, mentors and leaders tend to share many of the same traits — a good mentor wants to see her mentees succeed and move forward with their career goals and dreams.
4 Traits to Look for in a Mentor
- Has experience in your area of interest.
- Will make time for you in person or as an e-mentor.
- Will provide insight, feedback and guidance to your questions and concerns.
- May help you with networking.
The Value of Being a Mentee
The first role of a mentor is to provide counsel and advice. "Having an objective and supportive person to help guide you in your career path is essential," says Michele Gorman, MS, RDN, past-president of the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "I was fortunate to have found a mentor who has enriched my career path by helping with networking with other professionals, coaching me through difficult decisions, providing thought-provoking and objective feedback and conversations, and who, at the end of the day, is my biggest cheerleader."
But a good mentor not only encourages her mentees, she pushes them out of their comfort zones when it's needed. "A couple of mentors have given me projects that I didn't think I was ready to take on. But, to my surprise, I was," says culinary nutritionist Jackie Topol, MS, RD, CSO, CDN. "This was an important lesson and increased my belief in my skills and abilities."
Where to Find a Mentor
The best way to find a mentor is to look around for a seasoned professional you already work with and whom you admire.
If there isn't an obvious mentor in your life already, get active in your professional organizations. Many state and national meetings offer mentoring workshops. Or, take advantage of programs that match mentees with mentors. For instance, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers electronic mentoring resources through eatrightPRO.org. Additionally, several Academy Dietetic Practice Groups and Member Interest Groups offer their own mentoring and guidance resources.
Are you ready to make a leap in your career? Connect with a mentor and make it happen.