Tory Johnson Says Be a Mentor

This holiday week is an ideal time to reflect on what you have and to be grateful for it, especially since most of us have more than others do. So go ahead: be thankful. I know I am.

But it's also a good opportunity for all of us, no matter what you do to put food on the table, to think about the "giving" part of the holiday, especially since most of us have more to give than others do.

One of the most rewarding ways to give is to pass along some of what you know to someone who is just getting started in the work world or is in somewhat of a rut.

I know, I know. You're too busy with kids or your own work or your own personal challenges to possibly think about spending time dealing with someone else's worries. You're not alone. These are uncertain times in America and certainly in the workplace where very few jobs are absolutely guaranteed.

Even though I don't have a beef with any of them, in some ways I can't help but think the explosion of gated communities, the addiction this country has with impenetrable SUVs, and our obsession with iPods are all witness to our collective desires to tune out and keep away other people.

And while everyone needs a break to zone out every now and then, we tend to focus so heavily on our own issues, which is understandable in our chaotic lives, but we often do it to the exclusion of recognizing the great benefit to be had by helping others.

Try Being a Mentor.

A typical mentor voluntarily offers one-on-one, non-judgmental support and encouragement. I'd like to think that most of us are already mentors and don't even realize it. To our children, family and friends, we readily dispense our wisdom to help with a range of problems while encouraging them to move forward.

Consider taking the opportunity to do the same for someone you work with. You don't have to be some high-powered executive with a big title and six-figure salary to have something great to offer. Look at the people around you. Is there someone new at the office who is having a rough start? Maybe there's a disgruntled colleague stuck in a rut. Take a chance at providing that person with the benefit of your advice and experience.

Once you've identified someone you think could benefit from a little help, the first thing you can do is take the time to talk to them on a more personal level. Instead focusing solely on work-related communication, take a moment to ask how he or she is doing in general. Tell them that you're available if they ever want to talk. It's important to show them that you are approachable, sincere and eager to chat.

If this person is too shy or seems uncomfortable in asking for advice then you'll need to take charge and make the first move. Ask if he or she would like to get coffee or even lunch.

Once you're at the point where your colleague is talking, the best thing you can do is be a good listener. When first being told what a particular problem is, it is best to just pay attention and take in everything this person has to say. More often than not, a good mentor is someone who acts as an adviser -- someone who can bounce ideas back and forth -- and listening will be the most important skill in giving specific and thoughtful advice.

Maybe your colleague will reveal a difficulty in balancing family responsibilities with those at work. Perhaps he or she is finding it hard to fit in socially at the office or possibly feels overwhelmed by their duties.

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