Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Finding a Mentor Mid Career: The Frankenstein Approach

Recently, I was talking with a couple of friends about how hard it can be to find a mentor when you're no longer early career. When you're mid career, it's a little weird. Sure, you like where you are and what you're doing, but do you really want to stay forever? All three of us are the Head Cheese In Charge at our respective libraries, so there is no natural person to whom we can turn for mentoring. Or is there?

As I started to write a general, "Gee, I don't know either," kind of response to the email chain, I realized I did have an answer. Since I'm so new in my job (both of my friends have been in their jobs for a while), how I started and handled my first three months is still so fresh in my mind. I worked to find the perfect mentor, but I didn't. What I did instead was... for lack of a better name, let's call it The Frankenstein Approach.

What the heck do I mean by that? Well, the way I've found my mentor is to cobble together multiple mentors so that (almost) every piece I need is embodied by at least one person. I've got a couple of people I can turn to for questions about community college settings. There are a few who've been in libraries longer than I have and in administration on top of that. I have a couple who know my current institution - one who is my official mentor through the program Human Resources runs, and another who is just someone I can ask questions, and both of them are peers (all of us report directly to the provost). I have a couple of people who know western NY academia, too. Finally, I have a few peer mentors who just know me and my approach. Only piece I don't have yet is someone who knows SUNY, but I just agreed to be on a couple of committees that I'm hoping that will help me fill in that blank.

This has worked for me so far. It's like... if I have a question about how to approach money centered issues, I turn to an old boss, whereas if I'm having personnel issues I can turn to someone who was formerly an "official" mentor but who has turned into a peer. If I'm trying to wrap my head around faculty relationships or anything else related community colleges, I can turn to one of a couple of contacts who are also directors at community colleges. If it's a very specific question about a dynamic I saw at a meeting on campus, I can go to one of a couple of people I trust on campus. And if it's about where my career should go, I turn to my peer mentors.

You're never going to be able to get everything you need, mentoring-wise, from one person. That becomes even more true the further you get in your career. So, take my advice: use the Frankenstein approach. If you're really lucky, when you're done you'll be...

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