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April 9, 2012

The saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” Spring is in full force here in the San Francisco Bay Area as evidenced by the major rain storms predicted for the remainder of the week. Spring always brings to mind thoughts of change and growth. This is a good time  to take a lesson from the season and cultivate your own professional growth. What are you doing to enrich your own skills, knowledge, talents or network?

With change in mind, I would like to direct you to a few other posts that have some excellent advice and resources. First, I wanted to share a blogpost  from Bridgestar, How to Develop Yourself as a Nonprofit Leader.  It has lots of practical advice from some very distinguished leaders in the sector. While many of the recommendations are common sense, it is always nice to see what the pros recommend. Consider embracing one of the ideas and working on it through the rest of spring and summer and take stock come fall. Using the change of season is a convenient way to set a timeframe for a personal goal.

Another useful resource is this handy compilation from ResumeBear on 20 Impressive & Inspiring Productivity Experts on Twitter.  Twitter is a great resource for quick and dirty tips and tricks for all parts of our lives. Anytime I can find a helpful resource, I like to try to spread the word. See if these tweets don’t help you on your quest for some personal growth.

I recently attended the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy’s (EPIP) Annual Conference.  During my time working there, I had a number of conversations that involved questions about mentors.  As a result, I felt it would be helpful to offer some ideas re: selecting a mentor.

1) Availability — While I think it is important to select a mentor you can learn from, I would also add that you need to approach someone who actually can dedicate time to working with you. It may seem ideal to approach an outstanding leader in the field you admire; however, if s/he continually postpones your meetings or needs to reschedule, what is the value in that?

2) Begin with the end in mind — Acknowledging Stephan Covey’s brilliance (please see Habit #2 in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), it is always good to know what you hope to accomplish by having a mentor. I think sometimes young leaders have this idea that it is essential to have a mentor and in their quest to be successful want to line that up. The real question to consider is: what kind of help exactly are you wanting to gain from working with a mentor? It will be helpful to know that before inviting someone to be your mentor.

3) Set expectations — When you ask someone to be a mentor, it will be helpful to be specific about the type of help you are hoping to gain from him or her. I think it is also important to have some candid conversations about the kind of time commitment you envision.  Is there a time sensitive, task specific project for which you need advice or are you just wanting an objective industry expert to offer some informal advice?  Each is valid but requires very different levels of engagement from a potential mentor.

4) Consider the Mentor’s Needs — Any relationship requires the engagement of more than one person. It will be helpful if you can offer your mentor some help or assistance as well so that the benefits flow both ways. For example, while you may be a bit of a novice in the field of philanthropy, you may be much more of an expert in using social media than your mentor and s/he may appreciate learning a few tricks from you about maximizing the use of LinkedIn or Twitter. Just an idea.

I do think having a mentor can be a great resource as you navigate your career. I would just suggest being thoughtful and purposeful in your pursuit of the right mentor. To see other’s thoughts on choosing a mentor, see this article entitled, “Personal success strategies — how to choose a coach or mentor.”