Much ink has been spilled on the topic of mentorship – for good reason! Some articles I referenced noted that millennials, in particular, seek mentorship even more than 20-somethings of previous generations. Cue…. eyebrow raising statistic:
According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 63% of millennials say their leadership skills are not being fully developed. It also found that those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%), than not (32%).
The Mentorship Sandwich Generation
I’ve been thinking about mentorship a lot lately, partially because I met so many awesome people at the Dreamforce conference last week (mentor dreamz!) and partially because I find myself on both sides of the mentorship relationship – I have mentors and mentees! Perhaps that’s what it means to be in your late twenties now-a-days.
There’s certainly plenty of resources about how to be a mentor, how to pick a mentor, or why to seek out mentorship in the first place, but what about tips about how to be a good mentee? I consulted a few listicles, but none of them got to the heart of the matter. And none of them offered a structure to help you live up to your mentee #goals.
Ok, Spreadsheet Whisperer, mentorship is good and fine, but why are you writing about it on a blog about data literacy for activists and changemakers?
That’s a fair question, troublemaker, and I’m glad you asked. The real reason is because I like to write about the things I’m interested in – and I think mentorship is a topic that straddles nonprofits, grassroots organizing, and civic leadership, which are three of my passions! Also, I’m going to make a case for using spreadsheets to lay out some of your mentorship goals. Still not convinced? I’ll be back later this week serving up some spreadsheet goodness. Stay tuned!
Two to tango
My favorite resource on MenTEEship comes from the American Bar Association with some practical tips like “be prepared” and “reciprocate” (but really – click the link to learn more, it’s a very thorough yet concise resource!) I think a lot of mentorship comes down to taking stock of your goals, skills, aptitude, maybe even the gap between your goals and your current skills, and reaching out to your network to help you get there. Doing that well takes deliberate “relationship management” to make sure you’re up to date on everything you committed to. Plus it’ll help you be more specific – and specificity is good! Instead of approaching a mentor and saying “TEACH ME EVERYTHING!” you can ask for support around a concrete skill. Pro tip: It tends to be more rewarding for both of you 🙂
Don’t “spread” yourself too thin! (#PunIntended)
You can use a spreadsheet activity (yes, you could also use a journal for this) to track the answers to your questions like…
- What’s a skill I want to develop?
- Who do I know who has the skill? Friend of a friend?
- How long does it take to learn the skill?
- Do I need to pay someone to teach me the skill?
- When is our next meeting?
- What have I committed to between meetings?
- Did I send a thank you/follow up?
Since follow-through is so important to being a good mentee AND to learning/personal growth, it’s in your best interest to use a system to keep track of everything. Plus, if you have more than one mentor (which is recommended!), and those mentorship relationships span seasons or even years (mine certainly do), it can be really helpful to lay it all down “on paper.” As I write this, I am thinking of a mentorship relationship that didn’t last the test of time because we had agreed to meet quarterly, but after a few meetings I never followed up. Oops!
From my vantage point, spreadsheets have a few advantages over a notebook or a journal:
- they are searchable
- they are sortable (by date! by skill!)
- they are great for project management
- they are easily accessible on many devices
Taking my own advice
After coming up with this mentorship procedure, I did the activity myself. I asked myself to reflect on relationships with current mentors, and if I’m following through on what we agreed to. I asked myself if I owe my mentors any emails or if it’s time to reach out for another smoothie date. I recorded when those might come up, so all of the info is in one place. I want to get all of this in order before I consider new mentor relationships, or mentees for that matter!
Then I asked myself about skills on my horizon. I’m not ready to launch into another season of skill building at the moment, having just completed one (yay!), but I know that I want to add “Flows” to my Salesforce arsenol and I want to join a fellowship or accellerator to have more structure as The Data Are Alright grows. Plus, I want to reach more people with the blog – and I will need some support to get there.
I’d be fascinated to know what made it onto your list and if you find the activity useful. Write me a note or leave a comment to keep the dialogue going!