Creative EDC launched NCEDAMentorNetwork.com on September 1. It is a tool to match experienced economic developers with economic developers that want a little guidance. Gurus and wise owls can register to be mentors, and newbies can register to be matched with a mentor. We hope the pilot project will be replicated in other places.
Do you know the saying that everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten? Well, everything I needed to know to be successful in economic development I learned from my mentor, Bob Comer. Positive attitude required – no whining allowed. Show up – and show up on time. Write the minutes before the meeting. Always return calls. Surround yourself with talented people. Helping others succeed will help you succeed. Take time to bury the dead – no, wait, that lesson was not meant for economic development! Beyond lessons in economic development, I also learned about ethics, integrity, and humility, and I made a lifelong friend.
In Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, she describes how important the mentor relationship is, but also how hard it can be to form. You typically do not meet someone at one business meeting then ask, “Will you be my mentor?” Often, mentor-mentee relationships are developed over time without formal structure. They evolve as two people learn from and help each other. With the rapid pace of change in organizations, the time to initiate and nurture a mentor relationship can be difficult. We hope the Mentor Network will help fill that gap.
As our profession struggles to engage young professionals to backfill positions vacated by the exodus of baby boomers, mentorships will become even more important. Ask yourself if you have something to offer a newbie, if so, sign up to be a mentor with IEDC, your state, or on NCEDAMentorNetwork.com. If you are new to the field and find yourself needing a little help, find a mentor. It will be the best thing you ever did.