The Case for Mentoring: Navigating New Beginnings and Tapping the Gas Pedal
With several new associates starting at our firm over the past few months, I’m reminded of what it was like to be a brand new lawyer. I’m actually reminded of what it was like to be a brand new anything – the feelings of uncertainty, self-consciousness, and eagerness to learn. Specifically, when practicing law, you have the recent triumph of (finally) graduating from law school and passing the Bar – no small feats – only to arrive at a new job feeling a bit like you’ve started all over again.
As a mentor, it’s important to remember those feelings of being out of your depth and starting something new. We’ve all been there. It’s how we’ve gotten where we are now. Being a mentor who not only hears, but really listens, means remembering those feelings, exercising empathy and patience, and helping to guide. I often think of the analogy of tapping the gas pedal in the car. Mentoring means honing your skills to really listen to what your mentee is saying, or sometimes not saying; pushing when needed and laying off when needed. Tapping the gas pedal to push them forward towards success, whatever that may look like for your person and your organization.
As we progress in our careers, and as we mentor younger or newer people in their careers, try to remember what it was like to be brand new. Practice empathy when you mentor. Don’t just hear but really listen to what they’re saying. Lead with an open mind and an open ear. You have the opportunity to help someone shape their career, and it can be an enormously rewarding collaboration.