Mentoring relationships can change lives. But does mentoring always have to follow the same pattern? What we need to learn and how we can best learn it changes throughout our lives, and often we find ourselves challenged in very different ways at the same time.
Although there is much to be said for the lifelong bonds that can form when a seasoned professional takes a young person under his or her wing, the younger generations also can mentor their elders. I believe everyone has something to offer and something to learn. Moreover, some people might benefit more from a series of mentors. At one age, we might need a mentor to build our confidence and help with how we present ourselves while later it might be a good thinker who can help us consider all the angles as we make big decisions. At various times, we may need one mentor to help us master a discipline or profession, another who has connections that will help us identify and get selected for opportunities, and another who helps us see the big picture. Some of us may need mentors to help us with relatively small and peripheral but still important area of our careers.
Imagine an engineer, She works in casual clothes every day but may need someone with good fashion sense to help her look good for a professional presentation and someone else to give her tips for presenting. She may also need a mentor who helps her step out of her comfort zone in an area like writing for publication. She may need a mentor who helps her make her way when she is the only young person or the only female on a project team and another who helps her when the time comes to become a team leader—or to make the transition into upper management. She may need a mentor when she has her first child—someone who is an expert at balancing work and mothering or someone who is the kind of mother she wants to be.
No single individual could provide all those mentoring relationships.
By Deborah Vrabel
Pinpointing when and how the Think Pond concept originated is difficult. There was a moment when the name came to me and a conversation that inspired that moment, but Think Pond ripples across decades of language, ideas, relationship, observation, experience, and yearning.
Still I think it best to begin with Now–because Now is the epicenter of everything. Now contains the reasons anyone would care about this venture.
Today’s Think Pond links to recent conversations I’ve had with people who have gifts they are eager to share and aspirations that lie outside these things we have invented called “jobs” and “career paths.” Some of them have great jobs, good pay, and work they love and want to keep doing. But they had to shed a cherished piece of their dreams to have it. They had to re-channel much of their learning, their skill, their imagination, and their time in one direction.
I’ve talked with people who are underemployed, underutilized, or under-credentialed. Some are over 50, struggling to make sense of the technological tectonics that dwarf even the Industrial Revolution. They’re yearning to share or maybe reframe knowledge they gained over the years but they lack the platform, the tools, the apps. Others are just starting out and are facing tough choices in a tough economy. They’re finding they need to learn constantly and widely, to find a creative outlet, to think like entrepreneurs. Some of them are struggling to be great parents without compromising the work they love. Some are stalled, their unique, amazing gifts kept in check because of obstacles that could be easily removed with some mentoring, tech support, feedback, or sometimes just a bit of encouragement.
All those stories–told by people representing a range of ages, professions, education and income levels, and talents–leave me with these questions:
- What richness, what knowledge, what solutions are we losing?
- What if people could craft their jobs based on what they have to give and want to give the world?