Editor's note: This article was reviewed and approved by Kemba L. Marshall, MPH, DVM, DABVP (Avian).
According to Forbes,1 71% of Fortune 500 companies have long-standing mentors and 97% of those with a mentor say they find them valuable. However, only 37% of current professionals have a mentor, creating an urgent need for more of these individuals.
At the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago, Kemba L. Marshall, MPH, DVM, DABVP (Avian), emphasized that if you decided you want to be a mentor, there is no better time than now. Consider the following questions she highlighted during her presentation to take the first steps in commencing your mentorship journey.2
What is a mentor?
A mentor is defined as someone who is an experienced, trusted advisor with considerable knowledge and background in your desired field. They have accomplished the success you visualize for yourself and are eager to share their knowledge with you to help you reach your goals.
What mentorship is versus what mentorship is not
Marshall outlined what mentorship is versus what it isn’t to help establish clearer guidelines regarding the mentor role.
What mentorship is:
Engaging in working, professional relationships
Being willing to prompt self-reflection in themselves and in their mentees
Having a growth mindset and learning attitude
Providing honest insight and feedback
What mentorship is not:
Engaging in a relationship one would have with their best friend
Using it as a method for replicating oneself
Approaching it as professional counseling
What knowledge and experiences are you willing to share?
It is simple for you to reveal strategies and ideas you implemented with ease. Though mentees can gain insight from this, according to Marshall,they get the most by learning from strategies, plans, and ideas in which you faced obstacles or you had to entirely remodel.
“When you’re talking to someone about things that you have done that you were very successful at and went very well, those are very easy shares. Everyone feels comfortable sharing the successes," Marshall remarked. "What can be challenging and often more informative is when we’re sharing the things that may be viewed as a shortcoming or failure."
As a mentor, you also want to ensure you know what you are comfortable with sharing before doing so, plus you have to feel safe with your mentee when being vulnerable and divulging tough lessons. The relationship should be built on trust, accountability, and transparency. Confidentiality of information should be determined early in the relationship as well.
What areas or fields will you provide mentorship in?
Though you have knowledge and background in veterinary medicine, you also have those outside of the industry, so decide in which realm you would like to offer mentorship. Some examples of groups within the profession to mentor that Marshall mentioned include pre-veterinary students, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians.
How and when will you provide mentorship?
Another way to ensure your mentorship relationship thrives is by setting a mutual meeting schedule with dates and times held on calendars. “Mentorships, like a lot of different relationships, can take on a lot of different forms and cadences and time periods. Those things are unique to the relationship and should be what the mentor and mentee agree to up front,” noted Marshall.
Additionally, you should decide from the start who is responsible for handling the process of setting calendar invites, checking if there is conflict, determining how long meetings will be, and more. Also, agendas and the topics discussed should be outlined before the meetings to ensure your time together is productive.
The symbiotic mentor/mentee relationship
Marshall explained that through the mentor/mentee relationship experience, both parties grow and learn and gain insight from it. “In showing others a new perspective, mentors themselves find new perspectives,” she concluded.
Burns S. Why working with a mentor will take your business to the next level—and how to find one. Forbes. September 7, 2021. Accessed January 14, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephanieburns/2021/09/07/why-working-with-a-mentor-will-take-your-business-to-the-next-leveland-how-to-find-one/?sh=3b5203757b2a
Marshall KL. I have decided I want to be a mentor, now what? Presented at: American Veterinary Medical Association Veterinary Leadership Conference; virtual. January 9, 2022. https://avmavlc2022.us.chime.live/app/module&id=116