Monday, March 10, 2008


What does it mean to be a mentor?  To me it means to advise, coach or guide someone (usually younger and less experienced) through a journey.  In my line of work, we call that coach a preceptor.  When nurses are new to an intensive care setting, they spend many weeks with a preceptor accepting various and progressively more intricate assignments.  The goal at the end of about 6 weeks of preceptorship is having that nurse fly solo with with his or her own assignments.  This formal mentoring process doesn't end with 6 weeks of "orientation".  It can carry on for many years.  Even though I am a preceptor where I work, I still look to others for their experience in managing difficult cases.  I am always open to learning from others.

In a home setting, your mentor is probably your mom and dad.  I feel strongly that it is my duty as a mother to get my children ready to fly solo.  The best I can hope for is to instill my values in my kids at a young age and to have them demonstrate these things back to me when I let them go-for that is what we must do-let them go.  I believe it is my job at this point to be a cheerleader and to encourage individuality, freedom of thought and creativity. 

It could be that I was meant to play this role of mentor in my life.  I like it.  I like encouraging and cheering on those I love.  It's sort of surprising what will happen to people when they are encouraged to think outside the box.   

My daughter came to me a few years ago when she was feeling trapped by her job and her responsibilities.  We were sipping cocktails in a local restaurant when she rather miserably said, "I just don't know what I want to do with my life."  I told her she did know what she loved most.  Make-up.  She has loved makeup since she was old enough to climb out of her crib and get into things she shouldn't.  She has adored "making faces" since the dawn of her life.  Makeup books were the biggest hit under the Christmas tree and cosmetic products a close second.  She is creative and artistic and nervy.  I like this.  She is far braver than I and has dreams for herself that I never had.  She is a couple of months shy of completing an aesthetician program at a prestigious school.  Her schedule is grueling-but she is doing it.  As her mentor, I applaud her every effort and every accomplishment-even when I know that ultimately, this career will take her away from me.  It's my job as mom, mentor or coach.

My niece who graduated from college with a self directed degree in film marketing has sort of been distracted by something different.  Left alone in a great big kitchen, she discovered a love of baking and she is turning this into a career (or at least exploring this career rather actively).  She has not really had a formal training in culinary arts, but she took off running and hasn't looked back.  She works now in a bakery and a restaurant kitchen doing what she loves.  I am proud of her (so are her parents) and encourage her at every opportunity.  It may not be what she set out to do, but she is doing what feels right and what she loves.   I'm quite sure when the dust settles, she'll find uses for her first degree when she sets out to market her own talents.

My daughter's friend is also exploring a new sideline as a caterer.  She has started small-just providing daily lunches to friends and family who she felt were neglecting their diets.  Word got out though and now she is swamped with orders.  I think it is growing bigger in a way she didn't expect because she has hit on a niche.  Left to my own devices, my lunch may be non-existent, cafeteria provided and subsequently dull or if at home, a bowl of shredded wheat.  With her providing my meals for lunch, I am assured a nutritious meal that has the benefit of tasting delicious.  And I didn't have to make it (not that I could).  Her salads are to die for.  My job as her mentor and customer is to convince her to charge what she is worth and THINK BIG.   Are you listening Andrea?

A mentor can never think their words are falling on deaf ears.  Things we teach may take forever to sink in and sometimes never do.  All it takes is one success for a mentor and it makes it all seem worthwhile.

Have you mentored anyone today?

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