Are you enjoying your current EA role, but feel in a bit of a rut? We’ve all been there—kicking goals and meeting KPIs, yet sometimes wondering what else is possible? It’s a fine question, one that demonstrates a desire to stay curious and keep developing, no matter what our vintage. The answer could be engaging a mentor.
A good mentor helps you explore where your thoughts are leading and provides impartial advice on alternative approaches to your role and career. Approaching a prospective mentor can be disconcerting, but aim high. Identify someone you admire and respect. It’s helpful, but not essential, to have some kind of connection—either directly or through a contact. Use the right approach and it’s likely they’ll say yes. People appreciate hearing they’ve made an impact, like to be acknowledged for their expertise, and many find real satisfaction in helping others.
Think about what you’d like to achieve and what may be troubling you. Keep your first contact professional and concise, including some areas you’d like to focus on and suggest an initial catch-up. If the chemistry seems right, agree on how often to meet. I’ve found every two or three months works well. The onus is very much on you to maintain the connection and fit in with your mentor’s schedule.
Trust and respect are key, so be honest and don’t gloss over things. Your mentor may sometimes challenge you. Stay receptive and open to being coached.
Being a mentor is equally rewarding. Sharing knowledge and expertise to help others not only feels great, but you invariably learn something too. Mentoring has also led me to reflect on my own achievements—something we rarely get a chance to do as busy EAs. In fact, you may already be one without realising it—junior staff often look to EAs as best-practice professionals and ambassadors. So, give some thought to how mentoring could help you find the ‘what else’ you’ve been looking for.
Anthony Carthew, EA to Louise Herron, CEO of Sydney Opera House, and 2018 PA of the Year Australasia.