MPI Potomac FYI

Mentoring:  A Meaningful Experience

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Shelli Vasser Gilliam, CMP, SEPC

Board Director, Leadership & Career Development

Are you a mentor? If so, you know the importance of providing guidance, advice and encouragement. You understand that actively listening, absorbing and assisting with sorting through the fluff to get to the crux is critical.

What may be surprising is that you could also be a mentor to someone else but not know it. Many people do not realize they serve as mentors. Whether or not you are in a leadership position in your chosen career path or the chapter, you should know your colleagues, boss and friends listen to what you say. They also observe your actions and notice how aware you are of what’s happening around you. Keep in mind that becoming active in the chapter will help other members get to know you better and see you as a mentor. (Hint!)

People naturally gravitate toward those with whom they feel a certain camaraderie. These same peers and friends may seek advice from you, and yes, also consider you a mentor.

Many of us think mentoring primarily involves children and/or teenagers. Perhaps you currently volunteer or have in the past with one of many community youth groups. We expect that once these same children and teenagers become adults, all is well. Allow me to share that having someone to talk with—as a college student and graduate, and later as a professional—made all the difference for me.   

So, what does a good mentoring model look like?

Mentoring is a shared experience that requires an understanding and solid relationship between both parties. Mentors learn from mentees and vice versa. Each party contributes; the process is collaborative. Mentors and mentees become strong alliances and strategic partners. Mentors also serve as part of a mentee’s “squad” or advisory panel. 

Mentors are important for ideation, advice, support, inspiration, enlightenment, counseling and clarity. They are influencers, and offer truth, thoughtful advice and anecdotes about situations and issues brought before them. They may also serve for a specific purpose—career/professional development, life and personal.

What are some core traits of mentors? 

  • Authenticity
  • Active listening
  • Honesty
  • Curiosity
  • Ability to connect, have a conversation and collaborate with diverse groups
  • Desire to learn and willingness to share experiences, stories and advice

I have two extraordinary mentors. I am also privileged to have several industry advisors whom I call “Shelli’s Squad”. My squad helps me focus on understanding the significance of certain professional moves and assists with charting my path and trajectory.

My mentors are unique in their sectors and how they view life, work and play. They are inspirational and instrumental in my personal and career development. They have guided me through some interesting times in my career and continue to do so. My aspirations align with core traits and qualities I see in them. I appreciate and admire them and can only imagine what my career would have been without them.

I would share their names, but they have their hands full with me!

Why do I have mentors and advisors? Because my mentors and advisors each have significantly different strengths that matter to me personally and professionally. I am interested in improving in the same areas where they are exceptionally strong. By creating a team of mentors and advisors, I have grown into a better, more confident and agile professional.  

Mentoring is a profoundly meaningful experience.

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Looking for a mentor? Stay tuned to the May edition of FYI.


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