The Need for Mentorship
Mentors had a great impact on my life personally and professionally. Today's modern workplace includes a great deal of remote work and I fear that means a generation will be lost.
Early in my career, when I worked in college athletics at my alma mater UNLV, I learned lessons I still carry with me today. What I learned the most was the importance of mentorship and how those who believe in cultivating leadership invest their own time to help and guide others.
For me, the mentor was coach Jim Bolla. Bolla is the all-time winningest women’s basketball coach in UNLV history. As a young sports information assistant, Bolla invested time and effort into helping me learn and become a better leader and better at my job. He engaged actively with me instead of just barking orders or asking me to do the tasks associated with the job. He treated me like a professional and treated me as an integrated member of the team. He gave me the perfect example of how to treat those you work with. His idea of a team consisted of everyone from the girls on the team to the administrative assistant in the office. He lived his values every day and I watched and learned.
To this day, some 30 years later, Jim is still a mentor and a close friend. He’s always taken the time to give me advice and guidance - professionally and personally. I can’t imagine where I’d be without his help. I also can never do enough to repay him for this gift of mentorship.
Since those early years at UNLV, I’ve also had other mentors who have had a significant impact on my life. All of them taking the time to rise above just “managing” an employee and instead investing in developing a leader. Those relationships and experiences have meant a better life for me and my family. It’s why I believe in passing on the same mentality to those I work with or manage.
It’s also the reason today’s work culture concerns me. With the rise of remote work (which I support to a point), I fear an entire generation of professionals will miss out on the meaningful and valuable relationship that occurs when you find a mentor.
My 25-year-old daughter is a great example. She’s fortunate to be working with great people in a great company but it’s 100% remote. In almost two years with the company, she’s been to the office just once. She’s fortunate in that she has a wonderful and supportive manager who she continues to learn from all the time. The company treats its employees exceptionally and she’s fortunate to be in a great situation.
But she’s also missing out. Mentorship goes beyond a manager or a skip-level manager. So many of my mentors were experienced leaders who didn’t have direct supervision or oversight of my various roles. They might have been someone in HR, accounting, or engineering. These were people who helped me through challenges and quandaries. Most of them happened because I’d swing by their office or see them in the cafeteria or invite them for a quick coffee. For those who are working mostly remote, how do they find these important guides and develop relationships? I love Zoom and technology but there’s a nuance you can’t get virtually.
Now, without this face-to-face interaction, how do today’s professionals find mentors? It’s more difficult but not impossible.
If you’re working remotely, engage with others in your community and look for people you respect and seek them out. That could be a local professional organization or another group where you find experienced people who also believe in being a mentor. Don’t ignore it and don’t miss the opportunity to engage and learn. You will be a better professional and a better person for it.
But I do worry so many young professionals will miss the opportunity. It’s the downside to remote work and the changing landscape of the workplace today.
What do you think? Do you work remotely? Do you have mentors? Let me know in the comments.