Mentoring is for everyone--make a plan, find your role.

Author:Pressley, Sheila D.
Position:DIRECT FROM AAS - Column

As we mature and develop in our personal and professional lives, our perception of mentorship changes and we begin to see how broad the definition of mentoring can be.

As I reflect on my years in high school, I think back to my principal and to the teachers who took a special interest in me and encouraged me to remain focused. That was a great example of mentorship to me at the time and remains as one of the most important times in my life. As an undergraduate student at Western Carolina University, I thought of a mentor as someone who would guide me through my college career and help me make employment connections. It was there that I met my long-time mentor and eventual colleague, Professor Joe E. Beck. As was expected, I became a mentor because of my involvement with environmental health and with various organizations on campus.

I realized the true power of mentorship when I left college and began the next chapter of my life. As I moved through my career as a practitioner, I began to see a mentor as someone who could help in adjusting to a new workplace or to a new responsibility. I have always had great mentors around me and I owe my success to a number of individuals--many of whom are NEHA and American Academy of Sanitarians (AAS) members! Environmental health has always been a very close-knit profession and mentorship has been a part of what NEHA's Annual Educational Conference (AEC) & Exhibition have helped to accomplish for decades. My introduction to NEHA was actually at a Student National Environmental Health Association (SNEHA) meeting as an undergraduate at Western Carolina University. As a professional woman who continues to develop her career, I have mentored several students, young practitioners, and new faculty over the years. I have learned that a good mentor must also be a good mentee and be able to assume a number of changing roles such as that of a listener, a confidant, a motivator, and many other necessary roles to help others excel in life.

What is your definition of mentoring? Is it a series of chance encounters at a professional meeting or venue, or is it the purposeful process of getting to know another professional who may influence you in some way? In today's world of instant access to digital information and technology, it's easy to see why students and young professionals sometimes turn to social media or other sources for career guidance and personal development. These are wonderful sources of information when...

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