COMMENTARY

Mentoring Is 'Good for Everyone'

Christina M. Sorenson, OD

Disclosures

July 09, 2018

When I was in the third grade, my teacher had a phrase on a "Thoughts (bulletin) Board." It read, Johnny wanted to learn about the butterflies; he read a book and learned all about them. Johnny wanted to learn to swim; he read a book and drowned.

I know, it's a morbid message for a group of 8-year-olds, but it has been ringing in my ears ever since. This phrase can be applied to clinical practice. You can be knowledgeable in all subjects related to your practice and still be a disaster in the clinic. This is how I came to be an advocate for mentoring.

Mentoring has proven to be incredibly valuable in the corporate world. Clearly defined and structured mentoring programs are found in all types of professions. In the medical profession, some formal mentoring is found, but it is mostly a loose association between coworkers. For staff in medical practices, it can quickly devolve into lightly structured on-the-job-training.

Mentoring is not the same as training. Mentoring occurs when the seasoned individual coaches another to improve in a particular field. Training occurs with a "see-do" feedback loop. Training is undertaken to develop consistency in job performance. Mentoring is undertaken to ensure excellence in our chosen career path. Moreover, mentoring benefits all of the participants: organization, mentor, mentee, and patients.

Benefits of a mentoring situation can be readily seen and should flow in both directions. Simple conversations can offer advice and support or help develop skills and deepen the knowledge base. Mentoring can offer networking opportunities. Prominently, mentoring offers exposure to new ways to approach a challenge—it even may provide exposure to challenges. Ideally, mentoring will help develop your professional motivations, shape your approach to your career, and open the opportunity to new considerations.

A mentoring relationship is most productive when expectations are clearly defined. Hold meaningful discussions and expect significant participation from one another at each encounter. As mentor, expose your mentee to new challenges and direct them to substantial opportunities. As mentee, look to get past your comfort zone and share your perspectives. Remember, a successful mentoring relationship is one where all participants learn and grow. Finally, know when to say goodbye. As the mentoring relationship comes to an end, a career-long friendship begins.

Mentoring. It's good for everyone.

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