The Power of Mentorship

Two women meeting over coffee and laughing
Photo: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Have you ever looked back on your career and thought about the number of people in your life who had an influence on the professional you are today? Mentorship can be present in many forms; whether it is a supervisor who cultivates you as an employee or a colleague who pushes you to try something new. I have been fortunate to have strong mentors in both of my career paths.

Not all mentorship experiences are formal relationships and mentors frequently may not be aware of the impact they had on their mentee. Mentorship relationships begin with a mutual connection that may not have started out as someone thinking about mentorship. While society tells us that we should all have mentors in our life, we also need to strive to become mentors to the next generation. Mentors are not necessarily those who work in the same industry as you; they can be family members, friends or, in the age of technology, those you encounter through social media connections. Each mentor in our life helps us to establish core values, work ethic and where we see ourselves in the future.

Whether you are looking for a mentor or a mentor seeking a mentee, here are some tips to make the experience mutually beneficial for both.

Mentees need to find someone who has a career that aligns with their goals. Make the connection with your prospective mentor through your actions. Whether it is volunteering on a committee they oversee or providing insight on the projects or programs they are responsible for, putting yourself out there to get noticed is the best way for your mentor to see you.

Mentorship does not have an age limit. If you are a tenured professional who wants to learn a new skill from someone younger, that is perfectly acceptable. The same applies to coaching someone who just started out in the field. You never know how a small action of advice or encouragement can transform a professional outlook. The concept behind mentorship is to pay it forward. We all started out in our career by someone giving us a chance and cultivating us.

Developing a meaningful mentor relationship is a two-way street.  Mentees should value the time they have with their mentor. Do not utilize this time to complain about your current position or ask questions you can easily find the answers to. Instead, ask insightful questions that will transform your career or position. Take your mentor’s advice seriously and remember that they are giving up some of their time to assist you. Mentors, on the other hand, should be diligent about checking in regularly with their mentee. Ask for progress on the questions or problems that were discussed during the last meeting.

Do not be afraid of constructive criticism. As a mentee, one should ask questions such as, “What can I be doing to achieve this goal?” or “How can I improve?” In return, a mentor should be mindful of the emotional aspect of a mentee being vulnerable in this situation and should provide meaningful feedback.

Mentors can have a great impact on their mentees through small actions such as recommending a mentee for a special project or program, introducing them to influential professionals in their network, or sharing their work with the public.

For more information on mentorship opportunities in nutrition, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics mentorship page.

Stefanie Dove on InstagramStefanie Dove on LinkedinStefanie Dove on PinterestStefanie Dove on Twitter
Stefanie Dove
Stefanie Dove, RDN, SNS, is school nutrition dietitian based in Ashburn, VA. She current acts as coordinator of marketing and community outreach for Loudoun County Public Schools. She specializes in childhood nutrition, branding and marketing. Connect with her on Stefanie Dove Nutrition and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.