The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2016 projected that recreation worker jobs will grow byth of 10% nationwide through 2024, a rate that exceeds the 7% average for all occupations. Job growth coupled with the fact that many off us “old timers” are looking at retirement suggests that there will be many new faces and new professionals in the field of recreation and parks.
New professionals coming into the field provides an opportunity for professional mentoring.
What is a mentor? A mentor is a more seasoned professional who offers his or her time to guide, direct and support the professional development of a new person to the job or field. Through both formal and informal interactions, the mentor provides guidance and advice to emerging professionals in their respective fields.
The benefits to the protégé or “mentee” are obvious. Newbies can learn from the experiences of more experienced professionals. They can gain confidence, improve decision making skills and get support and encouragement through the relationship with the mentor. Mentors can work with their protégé on everything from professional networking resume building, career path decisions and work site problems and solutions.
Successful professionals often attribute their success and growth in part to a professional mentor. Ask yourself. From whom did you learn from and trust to give you guidance in your career development? Would you be where you are without the support of those who were willing to help you along the way?
Opportunities to mentor can be found in a variety of situations. Companies often offer mentoring programs when bringing on new employees. Many universities offer opportunities for alumni-student mentoring. Penn State puts out a call every year for both students and alumni to participate in the Alumni-Student mentoring program. We launch the program with an introductory luncheon and then the pairs spend the next year working together.
Professionals organizations like PA Recreation and Park Society offer opportunities for networking at meetings and conferences but can also provide the structure for formal mentoring programs.
Mentoring supports the growth of new professionals but it can also benefit the mentor.
Alex Lyman, in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring, identifies four ways that mentoring benefits the mentor. Mentoring can help provide a fresh set of eyes and new perspectives to the programs and services we deliver – and how we deliver them. Being a mentor can also help develop leadership skills. Role modeling, coaching, redirection and supervision are both mentor and leadership skills. Finally, Lyman proposes that mentors are not only reminded of lessons learned in their careers as they “teach” their protégés, mentors can gain new information and insight from their mentees.
Consider offering your experience, knowledge and support to a new professional in the field. Offer to mentor a student or an intern. Not only will mentoring help to develop a new parks and recreation professional, mentoring will also help to build our field as it continues to grow.