I subscribe to Glamour magazine. I have forever; it’s crazy cheap and there are frequently good recipes in the back of it. There are also a lot of articles about careers: what to wear to an interview; how to negotiate a salary or ask for a raise; how to deal with making a mistake at work. They have experts from all manner of high-powered jobs, with long titles following their names. A lot of it is general advice. Know your worth, for instance, when you’re discussing compensation. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. But some of it just doesn’t apply to me because my work is not on Wall Street or in IT.
I always thought that finding a mentor sort of fit into the “doesn’t apply” category so I never really looked for one. I had a preceptor when I started working in hospice and I asked her for advice frequently as I found my footing in a new job. I have supervision, I have peer support; I thought mentors were for people who were looking to get promoted. I have no interest in getting promoted. I like being in the field, doing the clinical work I trained for. I want to succeed in my work, certainly, but success doesn’t look to me like climbing a ladder of some kind.
When I started looking at my career, though, and thinking about what else I want to accomplish, I began to see the benefits of having a mentor. While I don’t have any aspirations for management, I do want to explore other options. Happily, I ended up connecting professionally to a social worker I saw speak several years ago at a continuing education event. Her talk unknowingly helped me find one of my passions (working with young adults in hospice). I reached out to her via email and we are developing a professional relationship that seems a whole lot like a mentorship.
It got me thinking about how to be successful in this field of work. We all want to be successful in our personal and professional lives; it’s part of Erikson’s stages of development, right? No person is an island, especially in this field. At its core, social work is about building relationships. Success is found in these relationships, when we allow others to help us shape our goals and move forward in a meaningful way. Peer support is necessary and wonderful but it’s not enough. It’s a great benefit to have someone who has walked the road ahead of you point out the landmarks. For me, the combination of peer support, supervision, and mentorship is the perfect cocktail for professional and personal success.
What about you? Tell me about your mentor. Or, if you don’t have one, tell me what your ideal mentor would be like. As always, thanks for reading and for sharing!