For the last three years, I’ve been volunteering as a mentor for a local community college. Students that are enrolled in the CIS program are directed to me for small assignments, projects and general help. Each semester I have anywhere between three and seven students that are communicating with me. It’s a rewarding experience and I look forward to the invite every year.
The students are instructed to introduce themselves, give a little background on their interests and describe the outlook of their education. They ask me to describe my current position, day to day responsibilities, and how education prepared me for my career. It’s always exciting to talk with an eager group of students and hope they can learn something from me.
Mentoring like a Manager
Students often asked, “What are the most important skills for an employee?”
I look for three major skills or traits when hiring. Communication, collaboration and fundamentals. In my experience, this really defines how well an employee will perform. I try and reflect these traits when mentoring the students.
Communication is the basis of any good relationship. It’s crucial you are communicating properly. Whether to an employee, a purchase at the store or a passing comment on a blog or website. I put a lot of emphasis on this with my employees and expect the same from the students.
If I find that I haven’t heard from a student in some time – I reach out to them to make sure they are keeping up with their assignments. I’ve held group sessions when they are assigned more complicated projects or have a lot of interview questions. I want to ensure that we are all properly communicating with one another – beyond just e-mail.
You know, you use to get graded on it – “Plays well with others.”
If you can’t work with your team, clients, managers or owners – you simply will not succeed. You will have trouble accomplishing daily tasks, monthly objectives and year long goals. Communication plays a huge role in your efforts to collaborate effectively. However, it’s not the only aspect.
It’s quite possible you could communicate too much. Giving too much information to people that could lead them to confusion or more complexity. Knowing how to properly handle information going in and out is essential for working together efficiently. When the students have a lot of the same questions on a project, I try to get them to work together on it.
You can’t build a house without a foundation.
That holds true with any great professional, student, or employee. If you don’t have the proper ground work or knowledge of something, chances are the long term outcome will not be a great success.
When a student has a question about their assignemnt, I try and direct it back to them to assure they understand the greater sum. Even when managing staff, I never just dole out the answer.
Employee says, “Client X has a question about how to fix the cog. Do you know how?”
I reply with, “How did the cog get this way? If you put the cog back to it’s original place, is it still broken? Understand more about the situation and you will be able to fix the issue.”
A true professional should always have a working knowledge of the fundamentals. They don’t need to have all the answers, but should adapt enough to find them or the people to address them.