Firstline magazine, dvm360.com and the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) each month solve tough problems for practice managers and team members in this “Tough Questions Answered by the VHMA” column. Join in by sharing your best advice, and then check out an answer later from a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager.
Q. My colleagues speak highly of the mentoring process and are encouraging me to consider a mentor. I'm on the fence. What are the benefits of being mentored and how do I find a mentor?
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Answering this month is Susan Savage, CVT, CVPM, MBA, PHR, practice manager at Clermont Animal Hospital in Clermont, Fla., and Kat Burns, CVPM, director of veterinary services at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colo.
Congratulations! If you’re considering a mentor, you’ve taken the first step in a positive direction. Mentorship is a team effort that allows those involved to share experiences, to provide encouragement and to be a resource when questions or concerns arise.
An effective mentorship requires a time commitment from both parties. The amount of time devoted to this relationship should be decided during the initial contact. Whether you agree to meet or talk weekly or monthly, keep in mind that this is a commitment both parties should take seriously. If you meet by phone, limit the meeting to 60 minutes initially. A longer time commitment may sabotage the relationship before it gets started. In our busy world, we all have too many commitments and too little time. Be realistic as to the amount of time you can devote to the relationship.
When selecting a mentor, look for someone whose practice size and number of employees match yours. You can start with the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) or a local managers group. If you search locally, look for someone who is not in direct competition with your practice and consider signing a confidentiality agreement to ensure that private discussions between you and your mentor remain private.
Finding a professional mentor was hands down one of the best things I have ever done in my professional career. Beyond providing tips and tricks for doing my job better, having someone who understands my daily challenges and can genuinely celebrate my successes has been wonderful. My mentor and I scheduled phone meetings every other week and used the time to catch up, ask questions and take the pulse of my needs.
I found my mentor several years ago through the VHMA. Training sessions, conferences and regional hospital manager groups are also good sources for connecting with someone who can support you professionally. I suggest you reach out to managers whom you respect and admire and ask to shadow them for a day. It's a good way to get started.
When selecting a mentor, keep in mind that for the relationship to be successful, personalities must mesh. Both parties must be willing to invest the time in the process, but remember, the mentor is giving the mentee the gift of their time and talent. It is important that the mentee be mindful of this. Listen, ask questions and keep an open mind to new ideas.
I consider my time as a mentee an investment in myself. My mentor encouraged and then gently pushed me to achieve my CVPM credentials. She was the first person I called when I passed the test. She still supports my growth within the veterinary industry and has become a dear friend. Now I am mentoring someone and it feels wonderful to give back!