Mentorship is a buzzword in higher education; we all want to find and be great mentors. We develop programs to encourage mentoring relationships and even assign mentors in graduate programs and for new professionals. But how often do we thank these great mentors who shaped us along the way, both personally and professionally? If you’re anything like me, the answer is a resounding “not nearly often enough”! Before graduating from the University of Florida in May 2014, I made it a personal goal to write extensive thank you notes to each and every mentor who helped me graduate and reach all of my goals (and more!) along the way. I wrote about three letters before realizing that there were far more individuals who spent time and energy investing in my success than I ever realized. Favorite professor – check. Faculty adviser for my student organization – check. Small group leader – check. But what about the countless others who dropped everything to have coffee when I was having a breakdown, texted a word of encouragement when an internship fell through, or supported me as I started an organization that nobody thought would last?
According to Oxford Dictionaries, a mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser” and synonyms include guide, counselor, confidante, and consultant.
I challenge all of us to broaden our concept of what a good mentor is. Furthermore, I challenge all of us to thank our mentors early and often as we realize who they are and how much they care. Who are the people who want to see us reach our fullest potential and give us advice and support as we work our way there? Who are the people who tell us not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear? Who are the people who will celebrate our successes with us and help us to remain positive even when there are failures? These are our faithful mentors, and they deserve to be recognized. As we move into professional roles where we will likely have the chance to mentor others, it is important to remember that by being good mentors we are creating the next generation of future mentors and that is an exciting challenge and big responsibility. Now, take a minute to #ThankYourMentors
1. Send your mentor(s) a hand written note. Tell your mentor that you’ve been thinking about them and reflect on the time that’s passed since you last met with them. What has changed? How have your grown both personally and professionally? What advice did your mentor give you that really stuck and made you think about things differently? This note is sure to brighten their day when they receive it and make them proud of all of the time and energy they’ve invested in your development.
2. Connect with your mentor(s) on LinkedIn. Show your mentor what you’ve accomplished since last meeting with them. Maybe it’s been a few years since they last helped you get that promotion or internship and you’ve been filling your LinkedIn profile up with all sorts of new activities since them. Show them how hard you’re working to continue their legacy of hard work and dedication to success.
3. Be that mentor for someone else. One of the best ways to thank your mentors is to be the same kind of Mentor for someone else. Think of all of the people who have built you up, given you their time, energy, and resources, and helped you to be the best version of yourself. How can you be that guide, consultant, and counselor for someone else? Even if it is in a small way, you may have the opportunity to impact someone more than you realize just by listening to someone’s story, telling someone about your career journey, or having coffee with someone who is having a rough day.
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Podcast With Paul Pyrz on Leadership Programs