We all remember our first boss. Sometimes we look back fondly at all the great experiences and lessons they taught us; and sometimes, we tell our stories to show how much pain we could endure. Either way, all of us remember what it was like to be in a new role and recall those who mentored us along the way. I find myself entering a stage of my career where I am not only being mentored, but also mentoring others. It is in this new, latter role that I find myself remembering what it’s like to be in their shoes. As someone who literally still has the shoes from his first job after college, it comes easily. However, even as I write this, I can’t help but think that we could all take a moment to remember what it was like being in the role we are guiding others through.
A good mentor doesn’t give you some high-level narrative or make generalizations; instead, they actively listen, are clear with their feedback, are honest, and they follow up. Looking back, the majority of my meaningful mentorship experiences usually happened within five minutes. It wasn’t necessarily five minutes of me being told how to do my job, but rather moments to relate and convey what you’re trying to teach in a meaningful way. Because in the end, the specificities matter less than the shared experience. In a profession that at times feels like it has endless deadlines and deliverables, those five minutes make the difference. From them, I’ve learned how to deliver meaningful products, and most importantly, to take pride in my work. Everyone is going to make mistakes in their career, but how we and others react leaves a greater impact than the mistake made. So as a reminder to both myself and you, take the five minutes. Use it to your advantage and take the time to get to know those you mentor – and those you may not even realize you mentor. Take time to ask questions and take time to put yourself back in their shoes.