Grow in 2022 with a mentor

Monday, 31 Jan 2022

Mentors come in many forms throughout an individual’s life, and you’re never too young to find someone to connect with on key decisions and choices in school, work and life. When I started teaching in 1993, I learned by accident over the first five years that mentors are important for my own career development, and as a leader, to capitalise on the greatest organisational resource, being the ‘human’ resource.   Equally important is the role mentoring plays for students as they’re making milestone choices about the person that they are becoming, the path they’re taking, and the choices they’re making. 

In this article, I thought I would share some key learnings I have gathered from my mentors over the years, and perhaps inspire you to seek a mentor for yourself, or your child, in 2022 and beyond.  

Believe and invest in yourself

Short courses, conferences and degree courses are all fantastic and in the age of zoom they are so accessible. I have thoughtfully invested in my academic professional career over the years with one of my mentors expressing to me that it was essential that I invest in myself. What I did realise until recently was that this also meant investing more time with my family and on my health. 

In the age of social media, my professional learning network has also developed to include building my learnings through LinkedIn and Twitter. Just don’t get lost in these platforms. 

It is also essential to become a reader. I try to digest one book per month, mostly professional texts, and biographies but studies show it is essential to continue to read some fiction. 

Look after the small things, and the big things look after themselves

One of my first mentors shared this piece of wisdom with me. I was teaching in a conservative independent school in Queensland at the time. He explained that if staff address the little things such as how you speak with your student or focus on minor uniform issues and behavioural issues then bigger issues wouldn’t develop. While this address isn’t strictly true, it did hold true for me in my first decade as a classroom teacher. 

Pay it forward

As you become a leader in whatever profession you desire, I encourage you to also pay it forward and become a mentor as well. This might be through your workplace within your wider family unit, through community sport or at your local school. The world is crying out for positive role models to balance the blur from youth platforms such as TikTok.

So how do you find the right mentor for you? 

What I have learned is that as your needs grow and evolve, you will need more than one mentor. Don’t go looking for “the one” but instead glean from a host of different people's attitudes and actions and find a set of professional mentors that can support you as a critical friend. 

Firstly, you need to have values that align with your mentor’s values. If they don’t align then the relationship is doomed from the start. The values I seek relate to mutual respect, trust, compassion, professional work ethic and integrity of decision making. I should also note here that your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same field or even city as you. 

Secondly, they need to have a desire to help others, an ability to commit to the relationship, and a willingness to share their own personal failures and experiences.

A mentoring relationship is a ‘joint venture’ that requires both the mentor and mentee to create a meaningful and beneficial relationship, and it takes time and commitment, but it is well worth the effort. 

Nick Johnstone 

This article first appeared in the February 2022 edition of Coffs Focus magazine