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AP Perspectives: 5 Reasons Why Mentoring Became My Favorite Form of Self-Care During the Pandemic

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I love mentoring!

There is no better way to start this article. Since the pandemic began and started to overtake our daily routines, like most of you, I tried to be creative in my ways of self-care. It started with baking. But it wasn’t long before I realized I consume my raw ingredients, even before I get to the final cake. Eventually, I needed a way to heal myself from the daily exhaustion that I don’t have to eat or sleep on. That’s when I began “formal” mentoring. 

When I say formal, I mean a structured, time-allotted, agenda-driven mentoring program connected with philanthropy. I decided I want to mentor some fantastic individuals seeking advice and knowledge around fundraising analytics. To get started:

•    I reached out to local nonprofits to join their mentor group.
•    I reached out to AFP committees. (I did not restrict myself to my local AFP Chapter. Seeing the world embracing zoom more, I connected with other AFP Chapter members on LinkedIn so I could plug in as much as allowed.)

In this article, I want to share what I achieved after spending a few hours every month for the last year mentoring.

1. You build connections with peers
Thanks to the pandemic, we no longer have the luxury of in-person conferences where break-out sessions offered us the space to connect with our industry peers. Don’t you miss meeting people with the same commitment as yours and in-depth knowledge to bounce off ideas? Mentoring helped me to sustain that feeling to a certain extent. Building relationships virtually is not easy, but it isn’t impossible either. I am a mentor both to individuals and to several groups of 5-8 people. I meet these people from different nonprofits, locations, and roles in their organization, and yet I am unified with our vulnerability toward starting this new mentor-mentee relationship over zoom. For me, this became a great way to learn how different roles play with data and analytics in their respective organization.

2. You improve your knowledge
This point is my favorite “why” of mentoring. With multiple webinars and blogs floating around, it is sometimes challenging to grasp knowledge without feeling exhausted. As someone curious to learn, I need to address that in multiple ways beyond webinars. Mentoring people with their data and research-related questions helped me to brush up on my knowledge and learn a few new things to support my mentees meaningfully. Fortunately, as a consultant, life-long learning feels like my job description already, so picking up a few new things for my mentoring sessions felt more like a bonus. The other benefit for improving my skills through these mentoring sessions was using those learning opportunities to create thought-leadership pieces for my profile—a win-win.

3. You add value to your resume when applying for jobs in the industry
The pandemic has forced many of us to pause and think about our jobs. Whether we already lost a job due to COVID-19 or took a deliberate break from the current position to find something different, one thing that we need for our next role is our resume. Mentoring adds value to your resume by enabling you to highlight:

•    Leadership skills
•    Speaking skills
•    Exhibit your knowledge
•    Team collaboration skills

4. You get to know yourself better
This point might be my second favorite “why” of mentoring. The pandemic has affected (and continues to affect) our behavior, mood, attitude, and general personality on varying levels. I know people in my circle who decided to take significant risks for their careers because they wanted to be bold, and I also know people who feel way more anxious than before, thus affecting their day-to-day. In such times, it is hard to articulate “who are you?”. But, these times (hopefully not lasting forever) should not make us doubt our potential. Mentoring helps in exploring that answer because you are growing just as much with your mentees. Every conversation with my mentees gives me a little more understanding of what I like, what I find challenging, what I need to learn more, or in general, what is my approach to leadership.

5. You get to see the impact you create
This might be the most obvious and perhaps the first positive outcome of mentoring for most mentors. After every session, seeing my mentees a little more empowered to tackle their data-related challenges gives me a more definite purpose to continue my job. Such a direct impact of these mentoring conversations tends to be helpful, especially on those rainy days when you feel exhausted or wondering about professional accomplishments.

MeenaMeenakshi (Meena) Das (she/her/hers) is a fundraising consultant. She describes the core of her work to be designing inclusive and equitable research and analytics solutions. Meena appreciates spending her time outside work as a mentor to immigrants and as a pro bono research adviser to small shops. Her two recent favorite projects are: (1) Launching a conversation-starter Udemy course, Essentials of Inclusive Fundraising Analytics and (2) Designing the second season of her podcast “Being and Unbeing an Immigrant," where she wants to bring together the families of immigrants left behind in the home country. Connect with Meena on LinkedIn.

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