Value and Mentoring in a New Generation of Professionals

By Constance Ard, Answer Maven
I recently had brunch with a dear friend, former staff person and current mentee.  When we get together our discussions range from one topic to another.  Eventually we got to “How’s the job?”

She is now several years into her first full-time job with a public library.  She worked with me as part-time staff, she worked at a large university and a public library while getting her MSLIS and she shocked me.

“You were the last mentor I had.”

Really?  Our younger/newer librarians have just as much need for mentoring as I had when I began my career.  Our mentors are our teachers of so much including value.

Professional associations, employers, and managers should not complain about the lack of engagement by “the younger generation” if the members of these classes are sitting on their laurels rather than being engaged.  My mentors taught me much including the value of active participation in associations, reading the news and being proactive. Those are just three examples of the things that I learned that contributed to my success. I would not have understood the value of those actions if my mentors had not taken the time to share their knowledge.

We, current managers, thought leaders and professionals must step up and mentor.  Everyone recognizes that mentoring doesn’t have to be formal.  It can be as simple as having a conversation over lunch or coffee.  However, it can’t be done as an afterthought as you are heading out the door and clearly have other places you would rather be.  The mentee knows when you are engaged with them and are committed to their growth and success.  Dedicate the time to have conversations.

So, all of this complaining about new librarians not engaging might benefit from a look in the mirror.  How engaged are we?  Are we taking the time to impart the things we were taught by our own mentors?  Are we sharing the tips and tricks we learned when we started on our own professional paths?  The need is definite and the value will be seen as long as we take the time to share the gems we have learned.  Institutional knowledge, professional competence and future innovations depend upon the development of new librarians.

Sitting on the sidelines in this critical time is not an option.  So, as one of my first mentors said long ago:

“Put on your lipstick, straighten your blouse, stand up straight and go do this.”

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2 thoughts on “Value and Mentoring in a New Generation of Professionals

  1. I am noticing a number of people maybe 6-8 years in to their careers starting to talk about this, the lack of mentoring they have received over the early years. The good news is they tend to be hands-on in remedying the situation, and making things better for the next generation entering the work-force. Some pro-active and creative thinkers can turn this around for everyone.

  2. I delight in the opportunity to support and mentor the three younger Law Librarians I am honored to know in this capacity. After 30 years in law libraries I have long ago reached my career plateau. I think one way to stay engaged and excited about this wonderful career is through the eyes of the younger Law Librarians I am mentoring. Watching their careers evolve and listening as they weigh the choices and options they have to choose is a great deal of fun. Getting them to avoid the mistakes I made and learning from them about the technology changes in our industry that to them is second nature is so rewarding. Mentoring is a great idea and I hope the Law Librarians with 25 or more years in and have the most to share will choose just one younger Law Librarian to mentor and join the fun. Notice someone you think has potential and invite her or him to lunch, done, relationship established.

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