A photo of me hiking the Allegheny Mountains in Western Pennsylvania.
Outside of DCG, I’m an adventurer at heart. Hiking is one of my favorite activities. Whether it is hiking in the Appalachian Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, or through the beautiful canyons in the Southwest, hiking in many ways serves as a perfect analogy for career growth. This spring, I participated in DCG’s 3-month, skills-based mentorship program in which mentees are paired with mentors. Mentors meet regularly with their mentees to help them reach their professional development goals. In this blog post, I’ll guide you through best practices for a successful mentorship relationship, advice from a few of our DCGers who participated in the Mentorship Program, as well as the unique features that make DCG’s Mentorship Program a rewarding experience.
Lesson #1: Discover the oak in the acorn
One of my favorite parts of hiking are the trees. It’s incredible to imagine a tiny acorn can grow into a tall oak. Likewise, great mentors can see the hidden potential in mentees. Mentors give mentees the confidence and inspiration to get to the next step in their career. As a word of advice for mentees from our DCG Mentor, Witney James, “Absorb as much information as you can and take advantage of your mentor serving as your professional accountability partner to take steps that you might be hesitant to take alone, without support.”
In DCG’s Mentorship Program both mentees and their mentors work together to clearly define practical and beneficial goals that are aligned with the mentee’s career that they can achieve within a three-month period. The best part, defining goals is a highly collaborative process between mentees and their mentors.
Enjoying the boardwalk at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
Lesson #2: Find your true north
During challenging hiking trips, hikers often encounter obstacles, whether there are sticks in our path, boulders, or fog. Sometimes our path isn’t clear and we can easily go off the trail; it can be challenging to muddle through these obstacles alone. Along our career journey, we run into obstacles that seem to be blocking our path whether we’re looking to learn a new skill, hone existing skills, or work with a personality that is very different from our own. By opening up to your mentor, they can help you find your footing. Our DCG mentee, Alexandra Hristodoulou recommends mentees, “Be open and honest — no topic or question is too big or too small, it all comes together in the end!”.
Just like the true north direction on a compass that helps hikers find their sense of direction, mentors have the unique ability to provide candid feedback to mentees as they navigate their career journey to help mentees stay true to their core values when challenges arise. In DCG’s Mentorship Program, mentees and mentors are matched based on variety of topics including career interests, skills, and personality compatibility. This allows the mentee to be paired with a mentor who understands their needs, core values, and motivations.
Lesson #3: Travel to the edge and enjoy the view
A view from the edge at Great Falls in McLean, Virginia.
My favorite part about a hiking trip involves marveling at the scenic views. Oftentimes, hikers discover scenic views at the edge of their journey. With the support and encouragement from our mentors, we often discover the edge. Our edge allows us to go outside of our comfort zone and seek challenges. In fact, finding our edge can be where our greatest professional growth takes place.
DCG’s mentorship program provides just the right amount of balance between structure and autonomy that allows our mentees to thrive. For instance, my mentor Kim and I had a few improv sessions designed to help me develop spontaneity as a presenter. While these improv sessions were intimidating at first, I quickly gained confidence. These exercises added some fun to our mentorship sessions. While goal setting and career growth is a serious task, sometimes it is beneficial to laugh at ourselves and enjoy the process along the way.
By the end of the mentorship program, we’ve had the chance to embrace our mentor’s wisdom. For mentees, when we’re able to push out of our comfort zone and achieve our goals, we can enjoy the view near the edge. Our DCG Mentor Witney shares, “For mentors: this is an opportunity to share your insights and hard-earned experience with junior, mid-level colleagues who will one day pass those insights on to another colleague growing-up in the industry. And be prepared to be motivated into reigniting your own professional growth journey — growth is contagious!”. Once we’ve reached the edge of our mentorship journey, it’s time to pop out a bag of trail mix to celebrate!
Halifax, J. (2018). Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet. United States: Flatiron Books.
Thatchenkery, T., & Metzker, C. (2006). Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
Discovering new views: Reflections on DCG’s 2020 Mentorship Program was originally published in DCG Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.