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Got Mentors? Gain Mentorship
Part 3 of 3

Mentors are available in a multitude of capacities. Some can be right in front of us at our facility, while others are on social media. Is there someone you aspire to in the central sterile/sterile processing industry? Do any particular industry professionals really make you think? Know that mentors are not limited strictly to our professional industry. Regardless of who they could be, our prospective mentors are not some far off stars that we can only gaze upon; they are real professionals that we can reach out to. If we continue to look at industry professionals as people we can only look up to, mentorship will forever be unattainable.

Seeking mentorship shouldn’t be a defeating or tiring process; however, the tremendous amount of professional fortitude and consistency the mentee must also procure often goes unaccounted for. Yes, the part that often goes unseen. Let’s break down some of the processes behind gaining mentorship to gain some physical indicators of success. What actually goes into saying “hello” and introducing ourselves to our prospective mentor?

Build rapport
The goal when first approaching a possible mentor, coach, or sponsor is to facilitate conversation. Networking is the best way to do this. Introduce yourself to the networking circles they often converse in. Comment on their social media posts that you find intriguing or interesting. Engage in conversation that resonates with your professional goals. Through passive and quick conversations like this, the individual will become familiar with you. After several instances of this, we can build the courage to introduce ourselves to them directly.

Sending a simple “hello” as our first message may not create the conversational traction we hope for. Crafting a brief introduction message or email will help with this goal. Introduce yourself, give position-specific information, and detail how you know them. Before thanking them for their time, ask them if you can pose your professional question or concern to them. Although we may be tempted to discuss our concerns immediately, please refrain.

If the person answers and inquires about your question, then proceed to share. When detailing your question or concern, be brief. An excessively long and elaborate message will not encourage discussion. It essentially presents itself as a monologue and may stay that way if the person doesn’t respond. Endless scrolling, elaborate explanations, and tangents make the question difficult to follow. Try to structure the concern in five sentences. Begin with the question, then one or two sentences regarding your stance or frame of mind, and conclude with one or two sentences that dictate what you’d like to know in their response. This structure will make sure the concern is direct and to the point and also gives a clear indication of what you need answered.

This same approach can be used in a face-to-face conversation, as well. Introduce yourself in the same fashion described above. When you request their time to answer your concern, be sure to ask if they have time to answer it. Be specific. We all know the phrase “just a couple minutes” means different durations to everyone. If they say yes, stay under five to ten minutes, and that includes their time to answer your question.

Regardless of the platform, be sure to thank them for their time and ask them if it is okay to follow up with them if you think of anything else you’d like to ask. Continuous appropriate conversations like these will lead to a solid rapport and availability.

Be clear on your uncertainty
We cannot expect our mentor to tell us what we should or shouldn’t be pursuing professionally. Mentors can only share insight, recommendations, and suggestions based on their own experiences. It is through this that clarity of our professional foresight can be created. As we discussed in the second installment of this mentorship series “Define Your Mentor,” we must have an outline of our professional goals. It’s perfectly acceptable if we don’t have a clear picture of our future selves after this exercise. It is where we don’t have clarity that our mentor can aid us.

For example, we found that thinking of where we wanted to be in five years, was very difficult. Unveiling this inability to see our future professional possibilities is our weakness. Own that and share that with your mentor. It is not our mentor’s responsibility to tell us who we should be when we grow up, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced similar uncertainty while professionally developing. Mentors may be able to share insight and through relatability guide us to our professional goals.

Mentors are people, too
During your mentorship pursuit, be ever mindful that mentors are people, too. They are allowed to maintain boundaries and say no. For example, do not assume that because they accept messages on social media or have an email account that they can field your question or concern. At this point in time, they may not know anything about you, have a considerable amount of work to be done, or not have the personal bandwidth to help. It is also presumptuous to think that just because we need attention paid to our answer or concern that it should be moved to the front of their priorities. If they say no to your request, accept it. Ask them if you can follow up with them via email when they have more time and ask for their card or email address. It’s perfectly acceptable if that answer is also no.

Be conscious of their time. It is inappropriate to send messages to your mentor at three in the morning, unless previously discussed.

Like all people, mentors are allowed to make mistakes. It is important to remember that mentors are only that because they assist in our professional development. That does not make them perfect. Casting unrealistic expectations upon our mentors is hugely undeserving for both us and them. Be sure to have used the actionable steps in the previous “Got Mentors?” article that helped you outline your preferred mentorship style: classic mentor, coach, or sponsor. This clear understanding of your needs will help navigate the relationship.

As we conclude our last installment of the NewSplash exclusive series “Got Mentors?” let’s briefly recap the actionable steps gained throughout the three articles. First, understanding why we need mentorship is crucial in our ability to seek it. There is no sense in carrying out an action if we don’t believe in its purpose. Of course, we must sidestep the limits of our own professional experience in order to grow past them. We do not have to do this on our own!

Second, understanding what we seek in our mentorship is vital. We cannot expect for a complete stranger to know what is best for us, industry expertise or not. Take time to write out and elaborate on your professional vision and goals. This will garnish a deep understanding of our professional selves. This understanding will serve as the foundation necessary to build our mentor, coach, or sponsor relationship upon.

Finally, gaining mentorship is an active process. Stumbling upon mentorship can happen by chance; however, a commitment and solemn drive in gaining mentorship yields more positive and consistent professional growth.

Professional development is an active process that we continuously go through. In the same way that we are not limited to the past expression of our professionalism, we are never done pursuing the next. It is acceptable to create and maintain a level of professional presentation that serves our current goals. Just know that when it comes time to gain the next objective-driven goal, mentorship is always available for our journey.

Sarah B. Cruz, CSPDT, CRCST, is a quality education program development coordinator for central sterile. As a CS education coordinator, she creates and institutes an education program in central sterile departments. This includes, but is not limited to, the formation of programs that onboard new employees, develop competencies, certify staff, develop LEAN process improvements, and implement standards of best practices and professional practices.

Sarah’s dedication to her industry continues as the creator and president of PRETREAT CSS, LLC, a mentorship platform used to educate, motivate, and support CS technicians’ professional development. Through tangible actions and physical indicators of success, Sarah knows central sterile services is an excellent profession to develop in as a career. She vocalizes her passion through published articles, social media, webinars, and public speaking. As an industry expert, she is passionate about her message: put the CSS in SUCCESS!

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