"He helped me realise that I was focussing on the wrong aspects of development, and the organisational culture should not require me to change". Tribeni Chougule, Executive MBA (London) participant, discusses the value of mentoring both as a mentor and a mentee.
At the start of my career, I did not know what mentoring was. However, very soon I found myself approaching respected seniors for guidance and advice. Their recommendations were invaluable in enabling me to make choices that I would have otherwise hesitated to make because I simply did not know better, this wasn’t helped by the fact that I was a newcomer to the workplace. And as a result of these actions, I inadvertently landed myself a couple of unofficial mentors who I would look to for advice when navigating tricky situations. Four years later the tables turned and I became a mentor to a couple of new graduates. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to share lessons from my experience and support them.
However, it was much later in my career before I was assigned my first official mentor. By this time, I had moved countries and was settling into a new work culture. There were numerous moments of self-doubt and I lacked confidence in my abilities. I felt I needed to change who I was to fit in and not be seen or treated as an outsider. Being in teams that constituted of only 15 percent women did not help the situation. I still remember a conversation with my first mentor in which I shared my development plan. He helped me realise that I was focussing on the wrong aspects of development, and the organisational culture should not require me to change, for example my accent, to fit in. It opened my eyes to see things with a new perspective, realising where the challenges came from, and I focussed on getting out of the toxic culture of the division I was currently working in. This discussion also meant that I reconfigured my development plan to focus on areas in which I actually needed to improve.
The true value of a mentor has dawned on me since. I have continued to seek out mentors officially and unofficially and remain sincerely grateful to all the mentors I have had in the past few years. Many of my mentors are no longer with the organisation and yet continue to support me when I need it. I have approached people to be my mentor with a clear statement of why I would want them to mentor me. The reasons have varied from their being an expert in the area I am working or aspire to work in, qualities that they possess that currently are not my strengths, their inspiring career journeys or their background being similar to mine, all of which can provide insight to overcoming particular challenges. Hence, I have more than one mentor. To each of them, I have articulated where I need their help, which has helped both of us remain focussed and monitor progress.
My mentors have made a tremendous contribution to my personal growth. The value of mentoring has been very profound in the roles of both a mentee as well as a mentor, enabling immense learning. Being a mentor has helped me to find the fulfilment of being able to help another individual circumvent obstacles and grow while contributing to my development. Therefore, to anyone out there who hasn’t yet had a mentor, I would strongly urge you to get yourself one. And once you become comfortable with mentoring as a mentee, then do consider being a mentor to continue your own growth whilst helping others to succeed.
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