Guidance, leadership, influence, role model, and experience. We could go on with what the characteristics and benefits of a mentor are. These words define the qualities of a good mentor. The true purpose of a mentor is not to be a cheat sheet to success.
A good mentor is there to assist you with the correct steps to take and guide you towards success.
It’s your job to use the tools and assemble the steps. Mentors should fulfill more than the gap between a dream and a goal. They should be there to align values and ethics, be an ear to personal issues, and an outlet if needed.
Mr. Miyagi and Professor Dumbledore are fictional characters that fulfill the role of a mentor.
Notice they never offered advice, but instead guided their respective students with relatable life goals and lessons.
We can use guidance in our medical careers, particularly in flight medicine, as it is competitive and requires maintaining high standards, from nurses and medics over to pilots and mechanics on the aviation side of the house.
Finding a dream job and obtaining it sometimes isn’t as easy as meeting the requirements and submitting an application. Hiring managers want to see a successful, driven applicant that is teachable and fits into the culture of that program. Hey, that’s me, right?! I’ll put that in my opening statement. “I am a critical care paramedic with X years of prehospital experience with profitable goals, driven to success.” Imagine sorting through 50 applicants that all headline their resumes with this same claim!
In this case, a mentor would be amazing; someone to give insight into your dream career, someone that will not tie your boots but place you in the footsteps of success. Enough with the metaphors, right?
What can they do for me? A mentor will help you connect with people, elevate your standards and guide you to your goals. If a mentor is honest, they will tell you that your attitude does not align with the values of that company. This is crucial during interviews, if your attitude, whether good or bad, doesn’t align it’s almost a waste of time. There are hundreds of qualified applicants. Having a mentor that knows you, instead of “knows of you” is crucial. A mentor is not a Facebook connection to your employment goal. These people may be a name but not someone that will guide you to success.
I’ve been writing up some ideas on mentorship and came up with something I called the IKEA complex.
These are my thoughts on a path to success along with what others have shared. I have compared mentorship as a whole into this theory of shopping at IKEA.
We all know IKEA has a ton of different items and can be frustrating to navigate, but let’s say we’re going in for a table, and the table represents your career. When you enter a job that requires countless certifications and years of experience, sometimes it is not easy to find that path, that’s where we find our mentor.
“There are many like it, but this one is mine”
Let’s head to IKEA and dig into our career path. For example, we know IKEA has a lot of tables and a table is going to represent our flight career and goal.
There are many different types of tables aka the type of provider (SAR focused, EBM guy, airway guy, etc).
You can walk into the store and ask the first person you see where the tables are, and he will point you down to aisle 7 which is a 30-minute walk.
This guy is equal to you asking on Facebook who is hiring and someone posting a random flight job. You can take this guy’s information, he can walk halfway with you (answering some questions) and after this long walk alone you finally get to your end goal, but you realize it’s not what you envisioned.
Next, you can find a group of employees huddling together that work in the table department aka a flight clinician group (IAMED, ECHO, Flight paramedics & nurses, etc.) and ask them. They will also put you down aisle 7, it’s not as long a walk and you’ll get there with a little more guidance because it’s their department.
What you want to find is a mentor or that nerdy guy that loves tables. Once you find them, he or she will walk you step-by-step all the way to the perfect table that you described to them. Once you get to that table/career, they sit down with you and explain the instructions because they know you have no background in this particular table.
Success! We have found our table, let’s start building!
We open a book for the instructions and uh-oh, it has about seven or eight different languages. You must speak the same language as your mentor to even start this journey. You and your mentor should find instructions you both understand. If you are not in agreement or on a different page, this can be difficult. I translate this into matching your values and ethics with your mentor.
If you’re both speaking the same language this means you both have a common vision. Now with most prefab furniture, this table will take time, and over time as we place the pieces and tighten the screws, we will have a solid structure. Think of this as your journey to your end goal, your mentor doesn’t leave on page 3. They stick with you, helping you find those lost screws, spare parts, and assist you to a new sturdier table.
“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”
I know what to do, what can a mentor offer me?
Have you ever been guilty of procrastination, lack of motivation, accountability, placing your dreams and goals aside for even one day? That’s where that mentor can step in.
As you are setting your attainable goals and striving to your end goal someone is walking with you. Mentors offer you accountability, a newer and broader perspective, networking, and break you out of career tunnel vision.
In other terms, rid you of complacency.
A good mentor can speak the truth regardless of what you want to hear. If people tell you what you want to hear there is no growth, there is no challenge. This is not to humiliate you or embarrass you, but to challenge you to new heights.
If you have not maximized your potential or worked hard, there is no pride and ownership of that career. For example, I will share my short story on how a mentor guided me to my career as a flight paramedic.
In 2014, I began the process of being a flight paramedic, I bought a book called “ACE SAT” and started self-studying.
I thought that was it, take a test and apply. I knew nothing about critical care, aviation, or any other related concepts.
After putting in countless hours to gain experience I found a mentor. I had a plan in place and a goal. I then took the time to put in hard work, attaining certifications and finding my niche.
As I have said before, we all look similar on paper. My mentor helped me find my inner passion that could offer a benefit to future employers.
Without guidance, I would be lost trying to find my way into my dream career.
Am I Ready?
Are you ready to accept a mentor into your path to success? This isn’t as simple as saying yes.
You should be physically and mentally prepared to take the responsibility of accepting someone’s experience, knowledge, and criticism.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have a plan?
- Am I focused on growth?
- Do I have a list of attainable goals?
It can be an honor to have a mentor so preparation shows respect and commitment to this relationship and their time.
There are many resources out there to find a mentor. Impact EMS Medical Education Facebook group is a great resource to reach out for a mentor. Find someone that matches your values, will challenge you, and guide you toward success.
I found these thoughts not for career advice, but also for personal development in general life.