I've gained a heck of lot from my informal mentors and they have definitely shaped my career progression, both in terms of my job roles and the other activities I've been involved in. Some of them know who they are, whilst some probably don't. I have a lot of role models in the profession and I think there's quite a thin line between role models and mentors, particularly now that social media facilitates communication with people I probably wouldn't have made contact with otherwise.
|My mentors frequently encourage me to take a leap of faith|
One of the most influential mentors I have is my first library boss. She's an incredible woman - a superb manager who really gets to know her staff well. Whilst I was working for her she was really empowering - she gave me the confidence to speak up and contribute my ideas, and gave me the gentle pushes I needed to challenge myself both inside and outside the workplace. Although she's no longer my boss, I know she's always willing to give advice or just have a chat - she has that perfect balance of caring both professionally and personally. She has a real talent in being able to remain objective and consider things from other people's points of view. She's also an amazing academic librarian and all round lovely person - a real inspiration. I keep in touch via email (and a bit of social media - I know she sometimes follows what I'm up to that way), and if ever I'm faced with a tough decision I always think back to what she would advise me to do (or I contact her and ask her opinion!).
I always try to take advantage of mentoring opportunities as I really get a lot from them. At the American Library Association Annual Conference this year I signed up for a mentor from the New Members Round Table. I had a great mentor; I had a few questions about managing my time at the conference so we exchanged emails before the conference, and I attended a mentoring social where we got to meet face to face at the beginning of the conference. I found this really useful; it helped me to get more from the conference and also helped me socialise. I'd like to see more of this happening, particularly for newcomers at larger conferences.
I'm not currently at the stage where I could mentor anyone else, but I'd like to think that this is something I might be able to do in future and if I do, I'll certainly be trying to be like my first boss - it's a tough act to follow though!