Partnership for Success

Learn how having a mentor can help you develop personally and professionally.

Beverly Biernat DeJovine

As you confront today's increasingly complex and uncertain healthcare environment, having a mentor is more important than ever before. Whether you are new to the healthcare field or a mid-career professional, the benefits of a being a protege are numerous. By having a mentor, you can:

Broaden your opportunities. Besides helping you develop important professional connections and expanding your network of contacts, a mentor can expose you to new opportunities. For example, if your mentor is a high-level executive, you may be placed in environments and confronted with situations that you may not have been until later in your career. Furthermore, the visibility you get from working with a high-level executive can affect how others see you and may influence future opportunities.

Benefit from proven political insight. A mentor can provide you with valuable information about the people, processes, and culture of your organization. By sharing knowledge about the preferences and attitudes of those you work with as well as the norms and values of your profession, your mentor can set you up for success. For example, if you are preparing a proposal for your organization's executive team, your mentor can advise you on the concerns and priorities of the team's key players so you can tailor your presentation to target their interests.

Add perspective and depth to decision making. Throughout your career you will be faced with many decisions. Limited by time and lack of pertinent information, how do you know if the decisions you make will be the best ones? A mentor is likely to have already experienced similar decision-making processes and can help by providing a different perspective-a fresh, objective, outsider's viewpoint backed by expertise and experience. This broader perspective can help you escape "silo thinking" by bringing forth a dimension to the issue that you had not considered, thus allowing you to make more informed decisions.

See yourself as others may see you. We all have blindspots when it comes to our own performance and personal conduct. Being unaware of how your actions affect others can keep you from accomplishing your goals. For example, your colleagues will certainly notice your tendency to interrupt them while they are speaking, but will unlikely approach you about your bad habit. If ignored, your behavior could become a detriment to your career and your relationships. A mentor, however, has a personal interest in your development and is in a unique position to notice and help you correct your bad habits before they affect others.

Further develop and refine ideas. A mentor can serve as an excellent sounding board for your ideas. The individual can offer knowledge and experience to help you think through and shape your ideas as well as provide the encouragement you need to take action. Furthermore, a mentor may be able to connect you with the right people to help you get your ideas off the ground.

The Misconceptions of Mentoring

Mentors can do many things for you and your career; however, there are some things you should not expect from your mentor. The role of a mentor is:

  • Not to find you a new job. A mentor can help you grow so that you are ready take on new roles on your own.
  • Not to tell you what to do. Your mentor's role is to help guide your decisions, not make them for you.
  • Not to coddle you. The most effective mentors push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to take risks.

While having a mentor can enhance your development, a mentor alone will not guarantee you success-you have to do your part as well. You can make the most of a mentoring relationship by being curious, honest with yourself, and open to learning.

Beverly Biernat DeJovine is a principal and practice leader at Perrone-Ambrose Assoicates, Inc., an organizational development consulting firm that helps organizations create mentoring cultures.

Perrone-Ambrose Associates, Inc.
2 N. Riverside Plaza, Ste. 1433
Chicago, IL 60606
(800) 648-0543

From Healthcare Executive, March/April 2002