Posts Tagged ‘mentoring’

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Why you should have a mentor

Previously, I wrote posts on finding a mentor and cultivating a relationship with a mentor. I promised a follow up post on why it is important to have a mentor. In this post, I give my 5 reasons to have a mentor. There are many more reasons, but I mentioned in a previous post that I like numbers divisible by five.

  1. Mentors provide experience: Situations like deciding whether to take the new job, apply for a higher position, move across the country, or work with a difficult boss are not new. Your mentor has likely experienced these same challenges and he or she can provide insight on how to navigate whatever challenge you are facing.
  2. Mentors have networks: People who have been in a profession for several years usually have large networks of contacts within the industry. If your mentor is unable to provide the correct guidance to you for a particular challenge or opportunity, they have access to someone in their network that can help you. A quick introduction from your mentor will grant you access to another mentor.
  3. Mentors can talk you out of a funk: There have been times in my career, especially now as a leader, when I face moments of self-doubt: I don’t know which way to go and/or I feel like I failed. During those times, I speak with my mentors who listened with a non-judgmental ear, asked the right questions, and usually end the conversation by telling me to what I needed to hear to get back on track.
  4. Mentors can help you grow as a person: Mentors are an unbiased third party that can with a unique perspective that can reveal your weaknesses and opportunities for growth. All my mentors have identified weaknesses in my skillset or leadership style and worked with me to strengthen those skills. My mentors challenge me, hold me accountable for my actions, and provide me just the right amount of encouragement to keep me moving forward. I would not be where I am today without my mentors putting me through this process several times.
  5. Mentors can be champions: There’s an old adage in networking, “It’s all about who you know”. There’s an update version that counters that by saying. “It’s not about who you know. It’s about who knows you”. If you cultivate a relationship with your mentor, he or she will be an effective champion for you and provide you with access to opportunities that you may or may not know about. For some of my mentees, I’ve sent their resumes with a glowing recommendation. I know the same has been done for me.

As we are still in the first month of the new year, I hope you make it your goal to find a mentor or two this year.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

 

 

 

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Lessons from WTS-DC’s Mentoring Program

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been co-chair of WTS-DC’s Mentoring Program for 4 ½ years. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience watching people in the program learn and grow and I myself have learned so much from it.

Every year we begin our group event series with a career panel where we invite four or five industry members to speak about how they got to where they are, triumphs and challenges they’ve had along the way, and advice they may have for the group. It is my favorite mentoring event of the year, because we leave it unstructured and allow the panelists and attendees to take it in whichever direction they choose. We give the panelists five minutes at the beginning to say anything about themselves and their careers that they’d like, then use the rest of the time for Q&A.

It is important to us to have a diverse panel with representatives from varying sectors and stages in their career because everyone always has different advice depending on what perspective they bring. However, certain pieces of advice have been brought up consistently by almost every panelist since I’ve been part of the program. I’d like to use this blog post to share some of the main lessons I’ve learned from these events over the years.

  1. Have a plan, but be flexible. Though this may seem like conflicting advice, these two suggestions do not need to be mutually exclusive. It is important to have a plan for the varying stages of your career to ensure that you stay on track, do not become complacent, and set the groundwork that will allow for your success in the future (for example, knowing that you need to get your graduate degree for a job you eventually want). However, no one can predict the future. The industry changes, your priorities change, and life can throw you curveballs. Make sure you say yes to opportunities that will challenge you and your abilities, whether it’s a new project at work or a job offer across the country. One of my favorite sayings is “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”. Your plan helps you prepare for when opportunities come your way and gives you the confidence to take them.
  2. You are responsible for making sure you have a work-life balance – it won’t fall into your lap. You will continuously be given more work unless you learn to set boundaries. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean saying ‘no’. Instead, say that in order to complete the work, you will need help. This has been a heavily-discussed topic during our panels, so I could write an entire blog post on this one. Look out for it in a month or so!
  3. Get involved in industry associations and/or outside organizations. Industry associations will help you keep up-to-date and continue learning throughout your career. This is also a perfect way to improve your leadership skills. Most of my leadership experience has been through volunteer work, but it has directly tied into the skills I need in my professional life. Also, don’t forget about volunteering for organizations outside the industry that address something you’re passionate about. Giving back in this manner helps you grow personal relationships and a sense of accomplishment that will help you maintain perspective, keep grounded, and give your mind a break.
  4. Relationships are key. Always grow and foster your network. I already wrote my last blog post on this, so I won’t say much more, but I actually met one of this year’s panelists because of networking. I was interested in how he got to where he was in his career and asked a common connection to put us in touch. During that meeting, he mentioned how much he enjoys mentoring and helping people with career development, so I asked him to be on the panel. You never know what conversations you’ll end up having!

I’ve learned so much from the Mentoring Program throughout the years and am sure I’ll continue to do so. Mentoring is a valuable tool that everyone should utilize. You can read more about the importance of mentoring from two of Veronica Davis’s previous blog posts: Finding a Professional Mentor and Cultivating a Relationship with your Mentor. And if you live in the D.C. area and are interested in participating in the Mentoring Program next year (or getting involved with WTS in general at any time), please let me know at sweisfeld[at]nspiregreen.com.

Stacy Weisfeld is a community and transportation planner whose career has been driven by her passion for environmental sustainability. She is adept at engaging the public, bringing together unlikely allies, and finding innovative solutions to unexpected problems. She serves as a board member for Women’s Transportation Seminar, is certified with ISI Envision Sustainability, and is a graduate of American Public Transportation Association’s national Emerging Leaders Program.





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