By Courtney Leeper, Noble Research Institute
College leadership programs introduced me to the concept of a “personal board of directors.” The idea is to surround yourself with a variety of trusted advisers. Your board might include professors, current and past supervisors, close friends and community members, spiritual leaders, and other professionals. Basically, it is who you are going to call when you could use an objective perspective.
When the AAEA Mentor Program rolled out, I was excited about the possibility of adding a seasoned AAEA member to my “board.” After filling out a questionnaire asking what I hoped for in a mentor, I was paired with Laurie Bedord, the advanced technology editor with Meredith Agrimedia.
We are committed to meeting, mostly by phone, about 45 minutes per month for a year. We set our own goals for the experience and are free to explore just about any topic.
Throughout the process, we have identified five reasons to have and be a mentor.
1. Create a Connection
One of the critical parts of a successful mentorship is the ability to develop a connection with your mentor. What that means is very honest, frank discussions about how you see yourself, your beliefs and convictions, and what you are most passionate about. Laurie has pushed me to look deep within myself to answer those tough questions.
2. Define and Refine Your Goals
As the person being mentored, this program has created space for devoting time and thought to career goals. I’ve been out of college and in my first full-time position as the Noble Research Institute’s writer and copy editor for three years now. With my first career goal (to graduate and get a job) accomplished, it’s time to re-evaluate my vision and consider new goals. Laurie prompts my thinking with questions to ponder, and she’s there to listen, encourage, and give me new ideas or suggestions.
3. See Yourself More Clearly
You need to be able to recognize and have confidence in what you do well, and you will always have areas upon which you can improve. Mentors can help you see your strengths and weaknesses more objectively. When looking to improve, a mentor can offer tips and advice based on his or her experiences.
If you can’t identify your strengths and weaknesses, you can’t grow as a person. Based on what your discussions reveal, this will serve as the springboard for all conversations that follow. Once you see yourself more clearly, you can begin to work on your weaknesses and learn how to take advantage of your strengths.
4. Stretch Your Perspective
A mentorship is a two-way relationship. It’s about sharing experiences, and, though a mentee might not have as many experiences as a mentor, each person has unique knowledge to bring to the conversation.
The only way you can think beyond what you know is if you connect with people who know something you don’t. That’s what we do every day as communicators. By applying the same principle to our professional development lives, we can access more of the treasure trove of information out there and use it to better fulfill our roles at work and better serve agriculture.
5. Benefits Go Both Ways
While the main goal of being a mentor is to share your experiences to guide that next generation, what you receive in return is invaluable.
“You get a front row seat as that young person grows as an individual and as a professional. You get to share her passion and help her realize her hopes and dreams – and how to achieve them. You get to see her realize her strengths and confront her weaknesses. I feel like a proud parent as she takes each step forward,” says Bedord.
“But Courtney has taught me so much as well,” she continues. “This experience has shown a light on why I became an Ag communicator so many years ago. Her genuine enthusiasm for this industry has reignited a passion that sometimes gets lost as you’re running from deadline to deadline. But the biggest takeaway is knowing our relationship won’t end once our time together is done. Whether it’s months from now or years from now, Courtney knows that I will be there to offer insight or just listen. For me, that’s priceless.”