The Easy Way to Mentor – Just Reach Out

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I got an e-mail from a young girl I met at an event recently. I suppose I should rightfully call her a young lady since she’s attending my old university, but anyway, we struck up a conversation. I couldn’t tell you about what, but I must have made an impression on her.

She wrote to tell me how she’d had doubts about pursuing a career in journalism but that seeing me in action and hearing whatever apparently stellar things I had to say gave her the confidence to continue on her course. She also liked that I didn’t tell her what to do.

That last bit sounds familiar because I can’t do that. Only she knows what’s best for her, but apparently I did share a few of my experiences and I let her know that if she ever needed an ear, mine was available, and I gave her my card.

Regardless of what industry you work in, you never know whose life you may impact just by taking the time to offer a kind and supportive word. Sometimes all a young coworker or peer needs is to know that someone cares, which can help give them the confidence they need to do what needs to be done. Given that so much of modern IT career and certification concerns revolve around performance and on-the-job training, opportunities to offer assistance to a colleague may come around more often than you realize.

Offering assistance or a supportive word is not the same as giving out unsolicited advice, however. I read somewhere that to do so can easily turn your well-meaning advice into, what did they call it? Interfering patronage. Sounds quaint, no? Faintly wretched, but quaint. And I mean quaint as in outdated.

When she wrote me back to tell me how much she enjoyed meeting me, I got something too. There was no flash of gushy, warm feelings, though I did think, what a sweetheart! Instead I experienced a muted but substantive feeling of satisfaction that I’d taken time to reach out to someone struggling and done something to help.

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