Why Mentoring Matters
Guest blogger Tom Flynn, LU '90 discusses the value of mentoring and how his mentors have taught him valuable lessons throughout his academic and professional career. He credits their guidance and support for helping him become the successful person he is today and emphasizes the impact that a good mentor can have on one's personal and professional growth.
Mentors can play a crucial role in the personal and professional growth of college students. They offer guidance and unique perspectives on life and career challenges, without the pressure of judgment. They want to teach, guide, and help you advance in your chosen field. Even if the advice may not always be perfect, it will broaden your perspective and open new possibilities.
Mentors can also help you advance your career by promoting you within their network and recommending you for work experience. However, it is important to note that you must actively participate in the process by proactively seeking out mentors and establishing your goals for a mentoring relationship. Larger companies often have well-defined mentoring programs in place to develop their next generation of leaders, while smaller organizations may not have such programs. In that case, it will be your responsibility to select mentors and create a plan to achieve your desired goals.
What I Learned from My Mentors
My high school rowing coach, Hart Perry, instilled in me the importance of practice, preparation, and consistency to improve both my mental and physical output. Through his guidance and use of specialized drills, he helped me leverage my individual strengths and identify areas for improvement. This not only benefited me, but also helped the team become more focused and efficient. This experience taught me the value of goal setting and defining action steps to improve the overall performance of a team, which has been beneficial in both my athletic and business pursuits.
My history professor at Lehigh greatly impacted my approach to presentations. Through his weekly critiques and recommended improvements, he fostered a healthy competition in our class to increase creativity and provoke deep thought in the delivery of historical concepts. This experience helped me develop the ability to create engaging and memorable presentations, which has been valuable in both my mentoring and business career.
My early experience as a consultant, under the guidance of my boss, taught me the importance of clear and timely communication with clients. She emphasized the need to provide detailed action items within a short period after meetings, which helped establish trust with clients and avoid project delays. This experience helped me hone my communication skills and understand the value of providing clarity and transparency in order to deliver high-quality service to clients.
My fellow Lehigh classmate, Rich Curran ‘90, also discussed his mentoring experiences on LinkedIn recently:
“(My mentors) helped me gain the perspective to see what really mattered, and then they challenged me to do it on my own and in my own way. Their confidence in me inspired me to strive to be my best, and their empathy helped me to persevere through the setbacks and failures. And, over time, that confidence transferred on to me as I achieved more than I thought I could.”
Getting the Most Out of a Mentoring Relationship
As college students navigate their professional journey, mentoring relationships can play a crucial role in developing important skills and knowledge (like the NACE Career Readiness Competencies) that are essential for lifelong career success. Whether short-term or long-term, always approach mentoring relationships with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Here are three more tips for getting the most out of a mentoring relationship:
Find a mentor that is a good match for you by using Lehigh Connects! Many alumni are happy to speak about their career, their company, and offer guidance. Lehigh Connects is your gateway to the entire Lehigh alumni network. When you create a profile, you can browse the alumni database and filter individuals by a wide variety of criteria including location, industry, and graduation year. Check out this comprehensive guide that explains how to reach out to alumni, what questions to ask, and strategies for making good connections that can assist you throughout your career.
In order to effectively brand yourself, create a list of the 3-5 things you excel at or have accomplished, and explain why a company would benefit from having those skills. Your mentors can help you practice articulating your strengths in the most impactful way in interviews and at networking events. It is important to acknowledge and recognize the valuable skills you possess. This process should be repeated periodically as you gain new skills and experiences.
Leveraging the connections of a mentor can greatly benefit you in your first job or internship search. In today's digital age, it is crucial to build an online network. Platforms like LinkedIn allow you to connect with family, friends, professors, classmates, and coworkers, all who have connections and can potentially help you identify internship and job opportunities. I recommended that you add 20 people to your LinkedIn network within the next seven days.
In conclusion, mentoring relationships can be incredibly valuable for personal and professional development. It is important to actively seek out and engage with mentors who can provide valuable insights, answer questions, and challenge your thought process. The goal is to accelerate your knowledge of expectations and strategically manage them to become a better person. Remember to share your successes with your mentors as it is a mutually beneficial relationship. As you continue to gain experience and knowledge, consider becoming a mentor yourself in the future, and pay it forward by helping others improve their skills.
About the Guest blogger:
Tom Flynn graduated Lehigh in 1990 with an International Business degree. He was a founding member of the Rowing team and remains an active supporter and volunteer for the University, the Class of 1990, and Lehigh’s Rowing team.
He has worked in Global companies, as well as start-ups, delivering growth strategies, process improvements, and payment efficiencies. His son Patrick is a proud member of Lehigh’s Class of 2026 and a Varsity Rower. Tom works at FIS Global as an Executive Sales Manager promoting Treasury and Payment solutions to the Healthcare, Fintech, and Manufacturing industries.
Connect with Tom on Twitter (@TomFlynn_LU) or LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/patomflynn).