All About Mentoring

by Kate Kosturski, Head Editor, INALJ NYC

All About Mentoring

katekosturskiWhen I attended Drupal Camp CT earlier this month (read my wrap-up here), our keynote focused on mentorship, and the importance of mentors in the Drupal community. The keynote speaker, DrupalEasy co-founder Mike Anello, believes highly in the value of mentoring – for both mentor and mentee. Many of his tips focused on mentoring specific to the Drupal community, but several are general enough that non-Drupal users (heck, all business professionals) will find value in them.

To dig into the value of mentorship, let’s look at the three most common myths about mentorship.

“I don’t know enough to be a mentor.”  As long as you have something to teach – a knowledgeable, comfortable, organized set of information on a topic – you can be a mentor. It doesn’t matter where you are on the learning curve for that topic; most likely there is someone below you on that learning curve.

To use my own example with Drupal, I know I’m very low on the Drupal Learning Curve. I’m not comfortable enough to contribute code to core development, but I’m way past the basic field. Of course, the easiest answer to this problem is to start learning code (which I am doing), but that is going to take some time. How did I find my short-term answer? By unpacking my skills and my interests. In working on a review of HTML and CSS, I noticed that I was flying through the CSS review lessons – clearly I knew what I was doing with that skill, which means I would probably be a really good CSS mentor.

Another great example is in my day job. In my department, I am one of eight who hold the MLS. Those of us that do speak Librarian quite fluently, and we can help our co-workers that don’t navigate the confusing world of library acronyms and “different names for the same thing” (for example, using Patron Driven Acquisition and Demand Driven Acquisition interchangeably). We’re all in different stages in our MLS life – from student to 10+ year professional – but we all have something to teach our colleagues who are just a bit below us on the Librarian Learning Curve. (I have been known to grab my co-worker’s notepad and write answers to questions she writes for herself for later!)

“I don’t have time to be a mentor.”  Being a mentor is not a 24/7/365 relationship. Mike suggest a 2-3 hour weekly time commitment, which is a good life balance for both mentor and mentee. It shows commitment on both sides to the relationship, but keeps space and distance for work, personal interests, home life, and skill building. Through my work with the New Members’ Round Table Student and Student Chapter Outreach committee, I was a mentor for a few Rutgers School of Communication and Information Science students – and the relationship did not involve any travel to the Garden State; just emails and Skype chats I could do on my own time.

“I can’t find someone to mentor.”  If you poke the Great Mentoring Tree with a stick, all kinds of opportunities will fall out.  If you use ALA Connect, you can sign up for the MentorConnect program right from your profile. Many Special Library Association (SLA) chapters and divisions offer their own mentoring programs, as this Google Search attests. You can also check with state library associations (here’s the New Jersey Library Association mentor program), your library school’s ALA student chapter, or any other professional group that is part of your life. And it’s just as easy to find the mentor as to be the mentor.

There is nothing stopping you from being a mentor. It’s not a lot of time, opportunities are easy to find, and as long as you have something to teach someone, you can be a mentor.

Now stop reading this and go mentor!

You can read more on Mike’s views on mentorship on the DrupalEasy blog, and stay tuned for an interview with Mike on INALJ this fall!

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