Mentoring – The Ultimate Pay IT Forward Strategy

Mentoring – The Ultimate “Pay IT Forward” Strategy

A long time ago…

I was raised in a generation before parents hovered over their kids and before kids were awarded “Try it Trophies” and “Participation Medals”.  My parents never knew when I had homework, tests, or projects due.  I was responsible for my academic success or failure.  I selected my college, applied for admission, chose my major and graduated without assistance, with one major exception: my parents helped me finance my education.  The work, however, was all on me.  Entering the job market and succeeding was on me, mostly because neither of my parents graduated from high school.  I was the first person in my family to go to college.    And I would not change a single thing about anything I just said.  My parents could not help me with my education, my career choices or offer any advice about the Technology career.  But I did learn incredible lessons on success and life from my parents.   I learned how to be honest when the world is not.  I learned how to work hard regardless of how hard those around me worked.  I learned how to manage money correctly.  Most importantly, I learned how to respect and treat others, regardless of the situation.  Yes, I still open the car door, and all doors, for my wife, my daughter, my granddaughter, the elderly, the young, and women and men of all ages.  Manners matter.

I offer this to illustrate that everyone can learn from you and you can learn from everyone.  There are a lot of struggling millennials out there that need guidance.  There are a lot of students out there that have no clue what careers are available and how to go after them.  There are a lot of professionals that were recently promoted into a management role that don’t know the first thing about how to lead.

If you are in a position of authority or in a senior role in your field, my guess is that you did not get there all on your own merits.  Just because my parents could not help me with my Technology Career does not mean I did not have mentors.  I did; great mentors.  I owe it to the next generation to provide mentoring and leadership advice, like I received.  Here is an action list to get started:

  1. Get Grounded – Make a list of those special individuals that helped you in your career: a great boss that pushed you out of your comfort zone, helped guide you along, or by just believing in you. Maybe you had a seasoned coworker that helped you navigate the political environment in which you worked, or a friend that you could lean on when faced with a difficult decision or career choice.  Jot down a few notes about what they did for you and how it helped.  (While you are making this list – remember to reach out and thank those that helped make a difference in your life.  They may not even realize the impact they had on you.)
  2. Get Connected – There are a lot of people and organizations that are desperate for mentors. Look through your network.  Identify those that could benefit from a kind word or an offer to help.  Identify the more seasoned members of your network that could provide mentoring, at a different level that you are able.  You have a responsibility for the advancement and success of your network.  They helped you!
    (Are you struggling to build your network?  Read my last blog here: )
  3. Get Involved – Reach out to your senior contacts and ask them to help your younger members. Introduce your contacts to each other if you think they can help.  Facilitate the first meeting.  Broker the conversation until they are underway.  Follow up with their progress.  Please understand that some of the folks in your network are struggling with their next move.  They may have no one in their network to provide guidance.  Make it happen for them.
  4. Get Serious – There are a lot of organizations you can join to help. Here are 3:
    1. Boys/Girls Clubs – The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a national organization of local chapters which provide after-school programs for young people. They assist youth from pre-school through high school by providing career mentoring, educational mentoring and life skills training.
    2. Your High School or College – The Guidance or Placement offices are always looking for business leaders, professionals and the skilled folks working in the trades to help mentor students to help them make good career choices.
    3. SCORE – The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides free business mentoring services to prospective and established entrepreneurs and small business owners. If you are an entrepreneur and need a little guidance on Finance, Operations or Technology, contact your local SCORE organization.  If you are a retired Executive from any discipline, volunteer some time helping others.
  5. Get your message out there – Change your LinkedIn profile to let your network know that mentoring is important to you. Make an open offer to be available to mentor whomever needs help.  Let the world know that you are in a serious “Pay IT Forward” mode by offering to mentor.

It is so important that you help others.  Your career is not complete until you start giving back.  Nearly every self-help book or support group with multiple “steps” to their program include giving back or helping others as the last and most important step.  I’ll start.  If you need help with your career: entering, advancing or mentoring, email me at [email protected].  I will help you if I can or I will help you find someone else that can help.  All I ask in return is to Pay IT Forward and help others.

As always, leave comments, questions, or anecdotes below.