Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter

Embrace the Power of Mentorship

“Mentoring should be a fulfilling relationship between somebody with more experience and somebody with less, with the goal of helping both individuals become elevated versions of themselves.” – Janice Omadeke

Sarah Evenson, JD, MBA

Most of us can think back in our career to that one person that helped guide us to where we are today. For some of us, it was the person who asked you the tough questions to help you make a big decision. For others, it was the person who introduced us to others and helped us to expand our network. For a few, it is the person who consistently held us accountable to goals we set out for ourselves. For me, it was someone who kept asking me why not, and helped me to see the possibilities I could not see for myself.

Thinking back to that same person, what were the characteristics you appreciated about that mentor? For me, they were a good listener and a nonjudgmental sounding board. They gave me constructive, honest and candid feedback whether I asked for it or not. They were eager to introduce me to others and never took credit for my successes. They were willing to dedicate the time for distraction-free conversation. They shared their own mistakes, so I was not just learning from my own slipups. Finally, they expected more of me than I did myself and set the performance bar higher than I thought I could achieve.

Knowing the benefits of having a mentor, I ask you to consider whether you have had that same level of impact on someone else? If you think you are not ready or do not have enough experience to be a mentor, think again. No matter where you stand in your career, you are someone else’s possible. Whether you realize it, someone is looking at you and thinking about how they want to be where you are already. Think you do not have enough time? While many mentoring relationships develop and grow over time, there are some that are just as impactful with a single conversation and follow-up email exchanges.

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While you have experienced the benefits of being a mentee, there are also many benefits of being a mentor. You learn to see things differently and from another perspective and experience filter. Practice your leadership and relationship-building skills. Learn more about your profession and expand your own network. Plus, helping others just feels good.

Many of us have multiple mentors throughout our careers, but there is usually one person who stands out from the rest as having a more direct impact than others. I challenge you to find an opportunity this year to make that impact with someone new. If a full mentorship sounds like too much, I challenge you to find a mentoring moment by having an impactful conversation with someone when the opportunity arises. Find a way to pay forward the benefits you received from your mentors to others.

If you are looking for an opportunity to jump right in and help someone, the ALA Membership Ambassador program is always looking for new Ambassadors to welcome new members to ALA. Individuals interested in serving as an ambassador can just email [email protected], and they will quickly be matched with a new member whose ALA journey will start with YOU!