One cannot live their life completely self-sufficient. We need help along all the way. A mentor is one way we can get help from others in order to grow and learn more. Often, a mentor is helpful because they will be an expert on a particular field of study. They will be able to impart their knowledge of that field onto you, if you desire. This can be one of the best ways to gain knowledge because it is a more individualized way of teaching, compared to a classroom (“Learn About What Mentors Can Offer”).
However, a mentor can also help a mentee with areas of improvement outside their field of expertise. In general, mentors would like to see their mentees became better, more well-rounded people. Since there is already a “teaching relationship” that is established, it is easier for these mentors to give feedback that will help a mentee in all areas of their life.
Besides improvement, a mentor can also help you advance within the field for which you’re studying. They will often have a network of colleagues that you can use to get in contact with even more people from whom you can learn from. This will expand your network of “mentors” even more, which will assist even more greatly with your development (“Learn About What Mentors Can Offer”).
How to Find and Work with a Mentor
In a university setting, it can be easy to find helpful mentors. They are often your professors or other faculty members. Most professors want to help students grow, both professionally and personally, so they enjoy mentoring students. There may never be an official “declaration” from a person that they are your mentor, but they can act like a mentor all the same.
However, you must be proactive in finding a mentor. Faculty members will not just approach students individually and ask if they can mentor them. As a student, you must engage in conversation with these potential mentors and ask them questions. Often, a mentoring role will not come about from one meeting or one question; it’s important to build a professional relationship with a potential mentor first. Then, from that initial relationship, a mentoring relationship begins (“Finding Good Mentors”).
It’s also important to show that you take their mentorship seriously. If you simply want to become buddies with a faculty member, the faculty member probably will not want to mentor you. You can’t just listen to what they are saying either; you must practice what you learn from your mentor in the real world. If you don’t actually care about what your mentor has to say, you probably shouldn’t be in a mentoring relationship (“Finding Good Mentors”).
The traditional leadership traits of assertiveness and intellect are not the primary traits that most successful leaders exhibit. While these traits are present, it seems that a more basic trait that leaders share is awareness. A leader may need to be charismatic, brash, or demanding at some points; at other times, they may need to be kind and soft. It’s important for a leader to be aware of these situations.
For example, a leader must be aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses. They can’t expect more from themselves than what they can provide. If a situation needs a leader with a particular set of skills, the current leader needs the awareness to either appoint someone with those skills or simply step down. Because of this, it is also important to be aware of other people’s skills. If the leader can identify who the best person is for the job, that would be indicative of possessing excellent leadership skills (Vora).
Stemming from awareness, it is also important that a leader is aware of all the diverse cultures with which he or she communicates. In this day and age, cultures intermix in almost every job, and it’s important to not offend anybody unnecessarily. This will only become even more important as globalization keeps moving forward (Vora).
How to Provide Feedback in Professional Situations
Giving and taking feedback is perhaps the most vital skill, not just in professional situations, but in life in general. Feedback is often the best tool that we have at our disposal to self-improve, so we should always be receptive to it. However, it can be difficult to give feedback to others, mainly because we do not know if we are being too mean. Almost nobody likes being mean, so if there is a risk of falling into a situation where we are perceived as nasty, we are often hesitant to continue with that situation (Petersen).
The most important tip in providing feedback is to know your audience. People all around the globe hear criticism differently, so you must know to whom you are talking. People in Korea, for example, do not enjoy hearing direct feedback. They would prefer the giver to be gentler in their delivery. In the Netherlands, they are the exact opposite. They would prefer you to tell them directly to their face without beating around the bush. If you use the wrong “technique” for delivering feedback in cultural situations, your words may not come across as you intended (Meyer).
“Finding Good Mentors.” University of Washington Graduate School, 2018, grad.uw.edu/for-students-and-post-docs/core-programs/mentoring/mentoring-guides-for-students/finding-good-mentors/.
“Learn About What Mentors Can Offer.” University of Washington Graduate School, 2018, grad.uw.edu/for-students-and-post-docs/core-programs/mentoring/mentoring-guides-for-students/learn-about-what-mentors-can-offer/.
Meyer, Erin. “Giving Negative Feedback Across Cultures.” Insead Knowledge, 16 Sept. 2015, knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/giving-negative-feedback-across-cultures-4259.
Petersen, Deborah. “Carole Robin: Feedback is a Gift.” Stanford Graduate School of Business, 27 Nov. 2013, www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/carole-robin-feedback-gift.
Vora, Tanmay. “Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 3.” Qaspire, 12 May 2014, qaspire.com/2014/05/11/indispensable-traits-of-a-collaborative-leader-part-3/.