A duty to mentor

Feb 22, 2011 by

Allison Jones recently wrote an excellent post about young nonprofit staff mentoring their even younger colleagues. She discussed the benefits of mentoring and I couldn’t agree more with her conclusions. I wanted to follow up on her piece by talking about why young nonprofit professionals have a duty and obligation to mentor.

Why do I think that? For a few reasons:

  1. Even if you stumbled into the nonprofit sector on accident (and many do), you are now part of the spirit of public service that is inherent to the sector. While I’m the first person to tell you that you don’t have to commit your entire life to your job, I do think you need to commit some of yourself if you’re going to be a successful social change agent. Helping clients while refusing to help your coworkers is rude at best and completely disingenuous at worst.
  2. Part of the reason why many of us get frustrated and burnt out in this sector is because we waste so much time reinventing the wheel and executing bad ideas. If we’re going to get better as a sector and as individuals, we need to help each other avoid mistakes. Sharing your experiences – and yes, mistakes – with those younger than you will help them get it right from the jump.
  3. I believe part of our charge as nonprofit professionals is to continue fomenting our various movements for social change. In the long-term, that means training and growing a cadre of young people that can continue carrying the water even after we’re done. Thus, part of our duty is to help younger colleagues learn and grow while also retaining their passion in the work we do.

What do you think? Why else should we mentor younger staff? Why do you do it?

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  • I agree – it’s important to build the next generation.
    I like mentoring for the pure joy of seeing someone else “light up” with enthusiasm – make me happy!

    • Me too! There is something intensely satisfying about helping others in
      general and I think the fact that they are young and enthusiastic makes it
      even better. Thanks for the comment!

  • Anonymous

    We have to help each other. And we have to listen. I had young NPO mentors fresh out of undergrad, but I didn’t listen to them and I thought of them as sellouts. Now that I’m getting older and been in the game longer, I understand the need to listen and I hope I can get that through to people coming up and starting out.

    • That is interesting Kristen; why did you think they were sellouts? And what
      kind of advice were they trying to give you? I’d love to know more about so
      I can try to avoid doing those things myself!

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Anonymous

        well, i was extremely anti-establishment of any kind, so anything
        people said (treat people with respect, do your work well and on time,
        dress the way you want to be seen), was ignored. One piece of advice
        i’d give now is to always tell the truth. be truthful and forgiving

        Kristen Jeffers

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