How many times have you felt out of your depth?
Think of all the times that you have been tasked with doing something and you go off to do it before actually realising that it is not something you are familiar with or sure if how to do it.
A normal response in our roles is often to appear confident so that people believe we feel comfortable that we can do something but might, in actual fact, be fully aware of the hurdles that might be faced.
It is a natural human reaction to appear (questionably) knowledgeable rather than seeking clarification or further attainment of the skills required for a particular task or project. Confidence and self-belief, coupled with common sense and logic, often go a long way in allowing you to fulfil a particular challenge successfully.
Another scenario might be if you feel confident in your role, so much so that your feel you have been there for so long that the tasks you carry out have become habit and somewhat mundane.
It might be, in this instance, life feels it is stagnating for you, you might feel bored, tired of what you do and even frustrated that you feel you aren’t going anywhere.
In both examples, you are likely to find that mentoring hugely beneficial and is bound to make an impact in your life.
If you fall into the category of ‘not needing a mentor’, this is something that you might reconsider.
We are all mentored, subconsciously, throughout our lives.
We learn, are inspired and become motivated in all that we do from the influences that surround us, whether they are family, friends, teachers, colleagues, bosses, even the person we came across in an every day situation that allowed us to think.
Mentoring the inexperienced
A mentor can nurture, inspire and help develop anyone that is ‘green’ in their field.
Past experience has shown me that, provided a person wants to do something, achieve a particular goal or fill a role successfully, they don’t necessarily have to be an expert in what they do.
If a person’s attitude is positive and they are willing to learn and develop, their personal attributes can take them far.
With a mentor, it does not only help in a person’s overall learning and developmental experience but it can also help them achieve the goals they set themselves.
It is fair to say that my first job as an Executive Assistant saw me in a role that dropped me in the deep end pretty much straight away.
I had little idea that my learning curve would be so steep and the mistakes I made can be put on the list of those that have not been repeated.
A few other roles I secured found me on my first day in each role without an Executive as they were often overseas on business.
This led to further ‘deep end’ moments in which I had to find my way around, become accustomed to the office and the way in which it worked very quickly and ascertain what to prioritise and what could wait whilst settling in and carrying out the job as well as I could so that my boss received the best service possible from the very first day that I started.
Whilst this brought opportunities for me to review, bolster or adapt the existing systems and processes, I felt that by not having a mentor in my field was something that put me at a disadvantage because having that support would have benefited me.
As my career progressed, most of the developmental training was driven by me (often the case with Assistants) and so I found myself to be my harshest critic in that process.
This, in itself, was not a major problem for me as I have always been driven and achieved what I set myself because of the pressure I put myself under, however, it certainly attributed to the feelings of stress and overwhelm at times event though people saw me as one of the most confident people they knew.
The feeling of stress and overwhelm is common in Assistants and is something that should be prioritised to avoid the mental health challenges that often lead to absence, cultural divide and, ultimately, departure of senior Assistants that are integral to any company.
How can mentoring help?
Provided a person believes in what they are doing is truly the best that can be offered is often the first major obstacle.
No one can expect another to meet or surpass unrealistic expectations and so having a person to champion them throughout a period of time, whether that is for a particular project, a set amount of time in order to achieve something, can be invaluable.
What is a mentor?
A person to help support you on your journey, with or without experience in your exact field, is beneficial to anyone wishing to develop and progress.
With this support, the guidance received will help you emotionally as well as with the practical elements of your role.
The motivation and encouragement a mentor can provide will undoubtedly help with your accountability and management of goals and objectives set.
Whether or not you are inexperienced or a person that has had many years under their belt, to be able to bounce ideas off someone and explain how things really are in any particular period of time, is what a mentor can support you with.
What makes a good mentor?
Empathy is the first quality a good mentor is likely to possess.
Although not necessary, if a mentor has had experience within the same field as the mentee, they will have a deep understanding of what their world looks like and the various challenges that are likely to come up.
Being able to communicate effectively, and listen, is a necessity for a mentor. A mentee is unlikely to feel comfortable in trusting the relationship they have with their mentor if they don’t feel heard.
No one’s path is the same, and whilst they are often similar, the way in which we reach our goals and achieve our objectives, is different.
A mentor will understand and realise that everyone is as unique in what they do and how they accomplish tasks and so being open to new ideas and processes will build confidence with the feeling of empowerment by the mentee leading to an improvement in developing their skills in both their personal and business lives.
Building upon an honest connection that is based on integrity and commitment allows the mentee to feel inspired in order for a mentor to become a role model and possibly the most successful outcome a mentor can wish for. If a mentee wants to aspire to what their mentor has experienced or achieved, the work they have completed with their mentee is a success.
There is much said about mental health in the workplace and what young professionals might experience. Having a mentor that understands, is experienced in and is qualified in the mental health challenges that can be experienced, either as a result of the role itself, external influences or even hereditary factors, is one advantage a mentor could offer.
What do I need to be a Mentee?
Putting your trust and time in someone can be challenging, particularly if you are naturally the ‘do-er’, or ‘go to’ person, the organiser and confidante.
Senior assistants working at a high level might know too well the unfortunate statistics of mental health illnesses that continue to grow.
The number of them that keep counsel and have a huge responsibility to keep at a relatively young age can be burdensome and they often feel they cannot cope, don’t have anyone to be able to share their feelings with and they find themselves spiralling downwards in a negative and unmotivated mindset.
It is important for the mentee to be open and honest. If a person has a positive mindset and know what they want to gain from having external support, the benefits can be great.
Another important factor is choosing the right mentor for you. Whilst there may be many people that can advise what you should or need to do, this is likely to be different for everybody.
Some people may find it easier having someone ‘in-house’ who knows the culture of the company as the mentee and therefore this might feel an advantage. On the other hand, a person external to the company, the culture and the people that are often the subject of various discussions, is likely to be able to view matters in a non-judgmental and less biased way.
The personality fit between a mentee and mentor is significant in that you must be able to get along, communicate well and feel trust between one another and how to find the right mentor for you to improve your well-being and personal development might help a mentee in this process.
Whilst how having a mentor makes you a better Assistant discusses a particular role, the mechanics of having a mentor can work with any person in any role.
The Mental Health Benefits
Statistically, mentoring helps a person’s mental health and as often touched upon, it is well-known that many senior Assistants in the UK often feel lonely or isolated, with one or more mental health challenges. Therefore, mentoring is encouraged amongst many, including first and second jobbers and career minded Assistants to be a sure way of helping you with the mental health challenges you might have.
If an Assistant or young person in their first or second job can feel that there is someone, off the record, to talk with, to discuss potential work projects, personal experiences or pressures and anything else they wish to share, they are more likely to be able to ‘offload’ what they require, receive a different viewpoint in return so they are able to manage the increasing pressures of what young professionals face in modern times.
Take anxiety as an example
The well-being of Assistants, in general, can be determined on how they are made to feel when they are managing the complexities of another person’s business and personal life. Coupled with that, the culture and what goes with it within a company can create further complexities.
'Work politics can be a real challenge when we have mental health problems. It can be helpful to find a mentor.... with whom you can discuss feelings about work.' – Mental Health Foundation
Whilst low self-esteem is not an mental health problem, it can quickly lead to anxiety and so having a mentor can help build this.
It is all too easy to jump on the hamster wheel again, as it gets faster and faster, without thinking of our own wants and needs.
If we are able to share openly our plans, goals, hurdles and frustrations, in both our personal and business lives, it can be a game changer in all aspects of how we choose to live and do what we do.
Next time we think about how we can help others, it might be worth just thinking about what we need to do for ourselves first.
If you would like to discuss how we can start mentoring sessions, please get in touch to discuss the Mindful Mentoring Programme.
Until then, take a moment to think about the importance of what you feel and how you approach things in order to be able to help others.