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Guest Opinion: Are you really seeking a mentor?


By Jackie Norris | President and CEO, Goodwill of Central Iowa

There’s been a lot of conversation about mentorship lately, and I think it’s important to decide if you actually need a mentor.

Maybe instead you need a therapist. Maybe you need a thought partner. Maybe you need a friend. Maybe you need a cheerleader and champion to help you find the next great job.
So begin with the end in mind.

Answer this statement: As a result of having a mentor I 
will ____________.

Then figure out the type of people you want to seek out.

In my life I have not had many mentors. That’s not that uncommon for women in government and politics. Quite honestly, the mentors assigned to me in formal programs often didn’t fit the bill because we did not have formally agreed upon mutually beneficial goals. It’s OK to admit that both parties need to and want to get something out of the relationship. The mentor wants the warm and fuzzy feeling of supporting others and the mentee often wants guidance and forward movement in their life.

My mentoring relationships might have failed because, as Steven Spielberg said, “the delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”

While I didn’t have many mentors in my professional journey, what I did have were lots of people who were willing to provide excellent situational advice.

The advice that has stuck with me is from the ones where I asked the right questions.

Consider these two questions. “How do I grow in my job?” versus “How do I get promoted to director by next year?” You can imagine that the latter question gets you more specific advice, clarity and a set of potential action items more quickly.

We are so lucky to live in Des Moines with so many people always willing to say “yes” to meetings, coffees and get-to-know-you sessions.

So take advantage of the resources available to you and remember – mentors come in many different shapes and sizes. Be sure you identify people that aren’t like you, that hold a contrarian point of view, and may be the ying to your yang.

Prior to being named president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Iowa, Jackie Norrisspent more than 20 years managing strategic planning and corporate initiatives for a variety of organizations. Described as an “innovative and seasoned leader,” Norris has spent her entire career working with individuals and organizations to succeed. Combining her experience in nonprofit and academia as well as a history with national and statewide political arenas, Norris has worked with teams to create, develop and manage numerous strategic campaigns and initiatives from inception to implementation, always with a specialization in service and volunteerismContact Norris via email.

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