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The Importance of Having a Mentor

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By Marlene Weaver
Faculty Member, Management at American Public University

Education is the backbone of success. However, once you step foot into your first working environment, finding and using a good mentor is a huge bonus toward your future.

As a young high school graduate entering the world of governmental business at the age of 18, I thought I was sailing. I was a GS-2 earning $6,000 a year. My supervisor was a 50 year-old woman. She had no children and she liked me. She thought I worked hard and fast and she had faith in my future. I wasn’t sure why, but I was happy. She routinely talked to me about taking a few college courses to help me progress faster. She explained that if I take business courses, the government would assist in paying the bill and it would help me to get promoted. I actually took her advice and enrolled in the local college. Day after day I would watch her in meetings and wonder if I would ever be able to do what she did.

For the next five years, she assisted me through my career steps, ensuring that I had the tools I needed to get to the next level. I was able to ask for her advice about anything at any time. Now, more than 40 years later, I still send her cards and greetings. At my formal retirement from the government in 2010, I spoke about her and the influence she had in my young life. Throughout those early years of my career, she often pointed me in the right direction, read over my job applications and reminded me that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. She somehow gave me confidence every step of the way. She wasn’t my mother, she wasn’t my best friend, but she was a fantastic mentor.

A mentor’s purpose in your professional life is to be a career coach. They’re a reliable source for industry insight, networking connections, and they are there to look out for your best interest. A mentor is removed from your personal life and has a broad view from experience of the overall organization or educational system you are pursuing. You may not think you need one, but they will be an asset you will always appreciate.

Several years into my career, my mentor retired. A few degrees later, and many GS grades higher, I then became the mentor to others as she was to me. I found myself latching on to a few of my favorite employees through the years to give them the boost they needed in some areas.

Find someone in your field or educational program that you highly respect and wish to emulate and ask them to be your mentor. Another avenue would be through associations like the National Mentoring Partnership. Really study your ideal mentor to see that their ethics and ideals align with your own. Be sure they are knowledgeable and well respected in their field. Whoever you choose will most likely be flattered and up for the challenge, but the ultimate and invaluable payoff will be yours.

About the author

Marlene Weaver has over 30 years of management and business experience with the Department of Defense (DoD). She has worked primarily in financial management and human resource management with a vast variety of seminar teaching in new financial programs and various appropriation law courses.

 

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