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Mentoring Embraces Differences

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Meg Marchese leads the WISE Within Chicago kick-off session.

When we think of the traditional mentor-mentee relationship, we typically think of someone older and wiser imparting wisdom and knowledge on someone younger and inexperienced. But mentoring can occur at any time in life — not just when you are young. Everyone has something to share, and everyone has the capacity to learn.

“Non-Traditional” Mentees

For the past two years, I have been involved with WISE Within, first as a mentor and now as a member of the Chicago WISE Within committee. Both years, we have had mentees who don’t fit the traditional mold of young and inexperienced. In fact, we have many mentees with 10 to 20 years of professional experience. That is what is so great about the WISE Within program. It embraces the differences and focuses on the outcome, which is to help someone achieve their professional goals, no matter how old or young they are.

Signing up for a mentoring program is not something one does on a whim. Mentees are looking for help. They are taking the next step and going outside of their comfort zones because they seek change and are motivated to make that change a reality. WISE Within’s process matches pairs based on goals and experiences — not on age — and it does a great job.

Tapping into Fabulous Resources

It takes a lot of guts to sign up for a mentoring program when you have 10 to 15 years of working experience. You have to swallow your pride a little, be honest with yourself and realize that you can benefit from some help. And, that help may come from someone who has spent fewer years on earth than you, but maybe has spent more time in a certain role that is of interest to you. If mentees can get beyond that hurdle, the reward is so rich. Mentees are in a position to tap into fabulous resources who have been where they want to go. We are all in a constant state of learning, and we learn from all different generations — whether it is from a baby boomer, a millennial or a Generation Xer. Our mentees in Chicago know this and are reaping the benefits.

The mentoring process is about sharing and learning while working to advance professional goals. Hopefully, along the way, there is a mentor with some wisdom and a smile. Everyone has something to share, and everyone has the capacity to learn.

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