When you were a student learning to become a therapist, mentors usually came in the form of teachers, professors, and supervisors. Upon obtaining your degree, and later, licensure, you looked forward to the next career phase. Should you go to work for an existing practice or an agency, should you open your own practice, or should you join forces with other therapists to start a mega practice? No matter where your goals have led you, and no matter where your goals are leading you, a mentor can provide guidance in every phase of your career. A mentor has already walked down that road, made some mistakes, learned from those mistakes, and now possesses the wisdom to help you reach your goals.
Here are some tips on the who, what, when, where, how, and why to find a mentor:
Who is the right mentor?
There are different skill sets that you may want to explore throughout your career, and different mentors can be valuable for different reasons at different stages of your professional development.
- Professional Mentor: This is usually what we think about when we first consider trying to find a mentor. The professional mentor is someone who has already successfully attained the goal to which you are striving.
- Business Mentor: This may be the same person as your professional mentor, but it can also be someone who is singularly focused on helping you develop your business, from the formulation of your business plan, to the implementation of your business structure, and right on through to the forecasting of your business revenue and budgeting.
- Peer Mentor: We all need someone in our lives who shares the same experiences, while in search of the same goals. A peer mentor is more of a confidant with whom you share those parallels.
- Leadership Mentor: Being a leader is much different than being an employee or even a business owner. Learning leadership skills from a mentor can help you throughout any phase of your life and career.
- Emotional Mentor: Hopefully, you have a therapist that helps you maintain balance through it all.
What to look for in a mentor?
Before you start your search for a mentor, you will want to assess your goals, your relevant skills, and your professional interests. If your goal is to start a private practice, it would be wise to look for a mentor who has a successful practice; but if you want to focus exclusively in tele-therapy, it wouldn't make sense to select a mentor who only has experience with in-office therapy. Maybe you already have a thriving practice, but now you want to expand to a group practice with additional clinicians and interns; finding a group practice director that has experience building up a successful practice would be an invaluable resource in developing your own business.
When is the right time for a mentor?
There is never a bad time to have a mentor, or even two mentors. Maintaining mentor-mentee relationships throughout different periods of your life will depend upon your plans and goals.
Where to find a mentor?
You run across potential mentors every day of your life. You might meet someone in your workplace that can become a peer mentor. Perhaps you attended a conference where you heard an insightful speaker. Maybe some of your professional associations provide organized mentoring resources for members. Many professionals in a wide variety of fields have found great mentors in a former employer. They key is getting yourself out there, meeting people with similar interests, developing relationships, and talking to them about your goals.
How to make the most of your mentee experience?
Listen! That really is the bottom line. Use the meetings with your mentor as valuable opportunities to learn about yourself and your career or practice goals. Equip yourself with the knowledge provided, apply the mentor's advice to help catapult your career goals, and welcome constructive criticism instead of relying on excuses for mistakes or shortcomings.
Why waste your time searching for a mentor?
By now, it should be plainly evident that heading into the unknown alone is one of the worst mistakes you can make. As the old saying goes, "Fail to plan, plan to fail." Just because you have watched others attain your same goals does not mean that you have learned how to reach those goals through osmosis. Learning from the experience of others in your field is invaluable in promoting your own ambitions, and it can make the difference between failure or success.
Read the complete issue: The Argonaut Navigator, April 2016
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