Career transitions can be scary. Sometimes you just need someone to guide you who’s been there, done that. I’ve made the career transition. I transitioned from teaching into instructional design. I can still remember all the feelings associated with a huge professional change - both good and bad. That’s why I can really speak to the importance of having someone in your corner to guide and support you while you walk down a new unfamiliar professional path. That’s where a mentor comes in.
In the IDOL courses Academy, the IDOL Mentor has a unique and vital role in the growth of the mentees in their group. IDOL Mentors are IDOL courses Academy Alumni who have achieved their IDOL goals and are now giving back by mentoring a group of aspiring Instructional Designers. Once a new cohort begins, mentees choose which IDOL Mentor is the right fit for them. They are encouraged to attend that mentor’s sessions throughout the cohort.
IDOL Mentors hold virtual group meetings at the same time each week during a cohort. They also keep in contact with their mentees between group meetings. The IDOL Mentor’s role is to support, guide, listen, advise, and encourage their mentees along their own IDOL path.
I’ve had the opportunity to mentor in the IDOL courses Academy for over a year now and these are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Collaboration is One of the Keys to Success
Collaboration is where the magic happens. I believe that we can achieve more together with others than we can on our own in isolation. As an IDOL Mentor, I’ve learned that mentees’ lightbulb moments happen most often through group sessions, one-on-one conversations, or through interactions with their peers outside the group. I know my own lightbulb moments happen in collaboration with others. Other people challenge us with new ideas or ways of thinking that may be different than our own. In instructional design, collaboration is one of the many keys to success. A learning experience can be all it’s destined to be by multiple minds coming together and bringing their own expertise and perspectives to the table.
Lesson 2: Show Them - Don’t Just Tell
When advising mentees, I learned that they truly benefit from seeing exactly what you’re talking about. If I’m discussing types of storyboards, then I show them various storyboards to illustrate my point. If I’m referring a mentee to a particular lesson in the IDOL courses Academy, then I send them a link of that lesson. Providing mentees with the visual or resource goes a long way in helping them understand a particular idea or concept.
Lesson 3: There is Power in Telling Your Own Career Story
I’ve learned that there is power in telling your own authentic career story. I believe there is power in being vulnerable and honest about your successes and mistakes in your own career transition. What worked? What didn’t? What did I learn along the way? Letting mentees know where I “won” in my IDOL journey and where I made “mistakes” creates a space of connection and trust that is vital to the mentor-mentee relationship.
Lesson 4: Support Can Have Many Different Faces
In my time as an IDOL Mentor, I’ve learned that support can have many different faces. Support can look like encouragement. Maybe a mentee is hitting a roadblock in their journey and just needs a little encouragement to get unstuck. Support can also look like resources. Maybe a mentee wants to know more about a particular skill or idea and isn’t sure where to go for the information. Support is also listening. Maybe a mentee just needs someone to talk to about a project they’re working on or about how they are feeling in their career transition. Support really does have many different faces. It’s about reading what the mentee needs in that moment and responding accordingly.
Lesson 5: Create Space for Open Communication
In my early days as a mentor, I assumed that mentees would come to me if they were struggling or needed advice beyond our weekly group meetings. While some do feel comfortable reaching out to me directly, there are some that may not feel as comfortable. I’ve learned that if I make the extra effort to create a space of open communication then more mentees will come forward when they need something. I never want anyone to suffer in silence with overwhelm or uncertainty. I want to fill the need if I’m able. I learned to start asking more questions in group sessions about how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. This has helped to create a larger space for honest communication about thoughts and feelings that they may be experiencing. I also think having that space in our group helps us to see that there are others with similar feelings. At the end of the day, I want everyone to feel seen, heard, and supported.
Being an IDOL Mentor has taught me so much about what it means to guide and support someone through a career transition. Ultimately, I’ve learned success as a mentor doesn’t come from always knowing all the answers or doing everything perfectly. Success comes from a willingness to genuinely help someone else succeed on their own path. To see the need and fill it. Success also comes from a willingness to offer advice, be an ear to listen, and to always come with an empathetic perspective. The weight of the mentor role is not lost on me. I strive to improve my own approach and perspective in order to be the best mentor I can be for my mentees. True success in my role as an IDOL mentor is watching my mentees succeed on their own path, while I walk alongside them, cheering them on.
“A mentor is not someone who walks ahead of us and tells us how they did it. A mentor is someone who walks alongside us to guide us on what we can do.” –Simon Sinek
Written By: Amanda McCroskey
Amanda is a former teacher turned Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer. She is an IDOL courses Academy Alumni and IDOL Mentor. Amanda enjoys helping aspiring Instructional Designers navigate their own IDOL path. She also loves using her ID skills to create engaging learning experiences that help learners grow and succeed in their jobs. When she’s not working on ID projects, Amanda loves traveling to new places, learning new ideas, and spending quality time with family and friends. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn or check out her portfolio.