This sage advice was spoken by one of the most renowned mentors in the world – Yoda. The wise little guy was tasked with training Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi warrior and to use “the force.” He coached Luke, prepared him for his journey and taught him skills to help him think for himself when he was on his own.
Yoda is the embodiment of what many of us see as the perfect mentor. He was patient, he had life experience, he was willing to teach and share lessons. Many of us dream of the day when we find our own Yodas, those mentors who intuitively know how to help us grow in our lives or our careers. In reality, finding a mentor requires more than just using the force. And when we do find a mentor, we shouldn’t expect them to be as magical as Yoda.
Real Simple magazine recently ran a feature story on mentoring that highlighted some successful mentor-protege relationships. After reading it, I realized a few things about mentoring. First, you often have to work to find your mentor. Unlike Yoda, they don’t just appear out of the stars. Second, mentors aren’t magical. Just having one won’t solve your problems or boost your career. Third, the protege has to be an active participant in the relationship.
In 2012, Sharon Straus, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, shared key findings from a study on mentor-protege relationships. To be successful, the relationship must be based on mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connections and shared values. Proteges said good mentors were honest, trustworthy and active listeners, who focused on the protege’s issues and helped them set goals.
So how does one find a mentor without the help of a light saber? Real Simple has some tips that include having a defined objective, setting goals and looking for a mentor outside of your workplace or even your profession.
I’d add that looking outside your own city or state is a valid option as well. Thanks to technology, those looking for guidance (and those hoping to guide) can take part in e-mentoring programs. Also called virtual mentoring or distance mentoring, e-mentoring can take place in a variety of ways. One-to-one mentoring can be done via telephone, email or Skype and group mentoring can be done by listserv, closed Facebook groups and even Tweetchats.
HIMSS has its own eMentor program where experienced health IT professionals share their experience and knowledge by answering questions posted via the HIMSS eMentor site and through podcasts. Executive eMentors, nurse eMentors and pharmacy eMentors are all available to share their wisdom with the health IT community. There are also HIMSS eMentors on LinkedIn discussions and Twitter.
You can also use social networking to help find your mentor. Perhaps there is someone whose Tweets you always find interesting. Be social. Comment on them and build a relationship that way. Eventually, you’ll feel comfortable enough to ask them to connect for more extensive conversations.
When you find your e-mentor, tips for working with him or her include scheduling times to connect, allowing for time to build the relationship, exchanging pictures, finding a focus for discussions and setting an agenda.
Finding a mentor may take time and effort but a mentor-protege relationship may be key to personal and professional success. Don’t get discouraged.
Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ
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