© 2018. Published in Experience Magazine, Vol. 28 No. 3, June/July 2018 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.
Cheryl Rich Heisler is the president and founder of the Chicago-based Lawternatives, a career consultancy helping lawyers transition into careers inside, outside, and around the law. She has worked in industries ranging from BigLaw to brand management for a Fortune 100 company to hosting a radio feature on career issues to outplacement consulting. She’s also a board member for the ABA Career Center.
Most often the idea of mentoring brings about the vision of an established attorney imbibing their wisdom on young eager attorneys who enjoy watching their career unfold. But in reality, mentoring comes in many forms and can occur at any stage in your career. Mentoring relationships work best when they occur organically. In fact, ABA Career Center Board member, Cheryl Rich Heisler, argues that being a mentor first is what will help you develop and grow mentoring relationships in the future.
Whatever your gender, or whatever stage your career, don’t wait to become a mentor. Reach out and try to engage. Offer something of yourself. Be a mentor as well as a mentee. And then go on to mentor other lawyers as you succeed.
If you aren’t sure what you have to offer in a mentor/mentee relationship, ask yourself: What do I know about that someone else might not? How can my expertise be shared up (and down) the chain?
Your contribution to the team can, but doesn’t necessarily have to, be substantive. Do you have a tech sensibility that your would-be mentor does not? Perhaps you bring a fresh viewpoint that might be contribution enough. Maybe you understand an issue from a different generational lens, and that perspective is extremely valuable.