Mentoring Is a Two-Way Street

Mentoring is not only an important tool for launching a career but also an often-underestimated asset for mid-career professionals.

Mentoring and being mentored is a two-way street for experienced planners who have knowledge to share and gain. The best form of mentoring comes from engagement when both partners are open to learning from each other.

Mid-career is a time to check in on your own skills and attitudes and to think critically about where your career is going, what's next, and how to find the best opportunities for growth.

APA's Florida Sun Coast Section recently launched the Coaching for the Advancement for Mid-Level Planners program, which matches mid-level professionals (those with at least five years of experience) with senior-level leaders in the planning community. Mentors and mentees are matched based on career goals, skill sets, and responses to a simple questionnaire.

Hone Your Leadership Skills

As a mentor in the CAMPS program, I learned as much as the mentee.

I got a fresh perspective on issues that younger planners are experiencing as they seek to advance in their career. These insights prompted me to reframe my management style to improve interpersonal effectiveness and consider new ways to foster an atmosphere of engagement and professional growth in our office.

Get an Outside Perspective

It's important to realize that your mentor need not be in the same organization.

Social media has energized and facilitated our ability to network and nurture relationships. Connections made through social media can bring greater insight into different issues and perspectives about professional development.

Keep in mind, however, that easily identifying a potential mentor doesn't lessen the effort required to create an authentic connection that will make the mentoring relationship meaningful for both parties. A personal connection is best.

Take a Risk

An important benefit for mid-career mentees is encouragement to stretch, step outside the tried-and-true, and do something bold, creative, and new.

It is a bracing antidote to burnout or feeling trapped. A mentor can help you shift perspective on your work and visualize a path to expand your skills, take on a new project, or act on a great idea.

You may experience false starts as you search for a mentor and the process may be long or difficult, but this is true for any relationship worth cultivating. Having a mentor at mid-career will boost your emotional intelligence, improve the quality of your decisions, and open up new professional opportunities.

Watch Whit Blanton, FAICP, and Melissa Dickens, AICP, discuss mid-career mentoring:

Top image: From left, Kathy Gademer, AICP, CFM; Melissa Dickens, AICP; and Whit Blanton, FAICP, at a mentoring video recording session. Photo by Bobbie Albrecht.

About the Author
Whit Blanton, FAICP, is the executive director of Forward Pinellas, the unified Pinellas Planning Council and Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization in Clearwater, Florida.

June 19, 2018

By Whit Blanton, FAICP