It wasn’t an interview, but it felt similar to one. I could feel my eyes shifting back and forth, corner to corner as I searched for the answer. In front of me sat a scribbled piece of paper with 5 or 6 goals for my first month of residency. They were things like improve manual skills, learn names of co-workers, and become efficient with documentation. Except now, we were talking about my three-year goals. Teaching? It was the only thing that came to my mind so I said it out loud and I relaxed long enough to blink. The question “what else?” quickly followed. The rest of the dialogue is a blur, but I left my first mentor meeting feeling like I did not really know myself (and I didn’t).
Mentorship. It was the main reason I pursued a residency and it is one of the best elements of my current position. When I wrote my residency applications, I saw myself perfecting manual skills, being challenged on my problem-solving, and learning new information from mentors. This did and does happen, but it is only part of the mentorship I receive. I never pictured myself answering life questions and being challenged on both a professional and also personal level. The clinical mentorship that I first imagined is valuable, but the professional mentorship that I never expected is invaluable.
If you don’t have a mentor or don’t have a mentor outside the clinical realm, consider the following:
Mentors give us perspective
We have sight, mentors have vision. We think we know what we want. We can see it. But, our lack of experience confines what we can picture or even believe is possible. Mentors have a much larger (and clearer) picture of the possibilities and can help us envision the future.
Mentors teach us by walking the walk
It is one thing to be given advice, it is another thing to watch someone live it. Mentors show us what it takes to be successful. They personify attributes of success and demonstrate what it takes to get there. They say that you are who you surround yourself with. By surrounding yourself with someone doing what you want to do, you see first hand what it takes.
Mentors support us
Mentors provide support and reassurance to our professional endeavors and our personal struggles. They create a safe environment for vulnerability. We can share and discuss our goals, fears, and difficulties free of judgment. We will all face setbacks and disappointments. Mentors can offer support through the difficult times. They can help us strategize solutions and encourage our growth in spite of frustration and disappointment.
Mentors call us out (and have the clout to do so)
We are often blinded by beliefs that limit us. It is difficult to recognize our own biases and shortcomings. Mentors can expose these biases and help us focus on areas needing improvement. Mentors are an integral part of professional development, but also personal development. They help us overcome what holds us back, especially when we are holding ourselves back.
Moral of the story: It is rude to move your seat away from your co-worker no matter the circumstance.
Mentors push us outside our comfort zones
Mentors make us do the things we don’t like to do, but need to do. It is easy to avoid things that make us uncomfortable or that we don’t enjoy doing. Mentors not only recognize our personal barriers, but they help us overcome them. We are never truly ready for anything challenging in life, but we must take the first step. Mentors force us outside our comfort zone. They make us push ourselves and give us the confidence to do so.
Next week, we will address the limiting beliefs that prevent us from finding and meeting with a mentor.