Getting Ahead: Building Relationships

GETTING AHEAD: Building relationships — The mentor-mentee bond

By AMY ANN STOESSEL http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20120109/SUB1/301099998/0/search
January 9, 2012

Finding a mentor is all about building connections” now and for the future. It’s nice to have someone in your corner, said Sunny K. Lurie, the CEO of Beachwood-based Fast Focus Careers, who has been in the career training and coaching arena for 20 years. She started her business in 2007, and today helps people at all levels, especially those looking to make a career change. I think it will stretch your ability to work through a challenge, said Dr. Lurie of having a mentor. People really do get stuck a lot … they don’t see what else is possible.

Instead of zeroing in on finding one perfect mentor (although, she said if you can find one, great), Dr. Lurie suggests finding multiple advisers and forming a mini team so to speak. The simple change in terminology suggests less responsibility, and having more than one counselor offers access to a broader range of skill sets and perspectives.

Dr. Lurie recommends having advisers both from inside one’s workplace and from outside sources, such as professional associations, college alumni groups, previous employers, business owners, online communities or even other industries. They should be accessible, knowledgeable, responsible and optimistic. She did offer one exception: Stay away from the boss.

Once a potential adviser has been identified, Dr. Lurie suggests reaching out with a casual, brief introduction, asking questions about their field, eventually broaching the possibility of furthering the relationship. For example, such a proposition could be phrased this way: I was interested to see if you can act as an adviser for me periodically. Finally, define clear-cut expectations for the relationship, and keep in mind the setup should be a two-way street, with the mentor receiving some sort of benefit as well, Dr. Lurie stressed.

This fall, two Northeast Ohio professional organizations kicked off mentorship programs to make it easier to build such relationships the Women in Law section of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and the Cleveland chapter of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Our main role was simply to make the connections, said John Lynch, chairman of YNPN Cleveland’s professional development committee.

Mr. Lynch, who works as a volunteer engagement specialist at the Center for Families and Children in Cleveland, said the decision to begin a mentoring program was the result of a survey the group conducted in late 2010. “We wanted to connect pairs that otherwise might not have crossed paths, said Mr. Lynch, whose program currently links 13 experienced nonprofit professionals with 18 young professionals.

The pairings are expected to meet once a month for at least 60 minutes. We’re hoping the relationships formed persist, he said. Meanwhile, Nicole M. Capretta, a second-year student at Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, already has discussed the ups and downs of the interviewing process with her mentor through the Women in Law section of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.

Developed in response to input from the region’s law schools, the Women in Law section’s program connects law students with mentors in Northeast Ohio’s legal community. The program, which started in October, pairs 22 students, such as Ms. Capretta, with mentors. It’s nice hearing from her what they’re going through, said Ms. Capretta’s mentor, Nicole J. Quathamer, who is co-chair of the Women in Law section and a partner in Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP’s litigation department. It’s a reality check.