To complement “Get a Mentor: Professional Advice Contributes to Success” in the October 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.
So you’ve decided you’d like to mentor a massage therapist. How do you find someone? How do you organize your time so it’s fruitful?
One way to think of this is the idea of knowns and unknowns. As we learn and experience more, the vast unknown gets smaller, but we are often unaware of all of these mysterious areas of life and learning. Between you and your new protégé, you can probably come up with a healthy list of things to discuss, teach and learn.
Here’s a six-step plan for achieving that goal:
1. Find Your Protégé
Contact massage schools in your area and let them know you’re open to working with a new graduate. Explain what type of work you do and in what environments you’ve worked.
Interview a couple of people to find the right fit. You’ll be spending time together, and if you choose well you’ll really enjoy yourself. You should be a good match in terms of interests, values and personality. Remember, this is someone who will teach you a great deal, too.
If you put yourself out there in the massage community, you might also have someone come to you and ask to be mentored. When this happens, it is a real gift—and a tremendous compliment. It shows your prospective protégé is motivated, a self-starter, a risk-taker and thinks very highly of you. It’s a great recipe, assuming the two of you are a good fit together.
2. Brainstorm Being a Mentor
Make a list of what you wish you’d known starting out. We all have a list of things we’ve experienced about which we think, “If only I’d known then what I know now.” Now you have this opportunity to share with your protégé and possibly save him or her that unnecessary career stress.
There are so many subtleties to being a practitioner. All the rules that we learn in school are great in theory, but what happens in reality? Most things in life are actually gray, not black and white.
A mentor can be invaluable in navigating these scenarios early on, but the truth is new experiences happen all the time. That’s why mentorship can happen at any time in the life of a massage therapist.
3. Ask Your Protégé About Learning Goals
Sure, your protégé learned lots in school—but that education was only intended to be a foundation. There is a new level of learning before your protégé now, and I find therapists of varying levels of experience can always identify where she needs more help.
That help can come with special interests he has; skills he needs to hone; or what are called soft skills that may need extra attention, such as confidence, timing, or written, oral or nonverbal communication.
Learners often have a great sense of what they need. We just need to give them the space to tell us what that is.
4. Find Ways to Work Together
Let your protégé shadow you and enjoy discovering new learning together. Many of my most valuable mentoring hours are found in shadowing experiences, where my protégé gets to watch me working with my patients and handling different topics that come up in real time. This also allows us to find those teachable moments together.
The things that seem important to me to share may not strike my protégé as so terribly interesting. And what my protégé asks often is only what is in his or her awareness. Experiences working together uncover what’s in the middle—and it’s often the most valuable stuff.
5. Ask Your Protégé to Help in Your Office
You can probably use a hand with things, and this work will prompt new questions and areas of interest for your protégé and give him or her an opportunity to see how you do things.
Your protégé may or may not fashion his or her own business after yours, but it’s incredibly valuable to have examples so those ideas can spring forth. Most of us learn by doing. Give your protégé a chance to do.
6. Keep Yourself Open to New Thinking
One of the most important parts of being a mentor is the learning you will gain from the experience. The best way to learn is by teaching; you’ll have to rethink what you do and why in order to share it with another professional. You’ll learn from your protégé and see what he or she was taught.
Professions change over time—or at least they should—and you’ll have the advantage of hearing the latest and greatest approaches. Your protégé also may ask you a question that prompts you to look into new ways of working that turn out to be more economical or efficient.
Being a mentor is not about knowing everything. It’s about sharing, and sharing is a two-way street. You’ll give some really great insight and change someone’s career for the better. You’ll also get some equally great insight and have an opportunity to reinvent yourself, as we all need to do from time to time.
Michele J. Renee, D.C., became a nationally certified massage therapist in 1998, and is currently an assistant professor and director of the Massage Programs in the College of Health and Wellness at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minnesota. She earned a Massage Therapy Certificate from Northern Lights School of Massage Therapy; a bachelor’s degree in human biology, a doctor of chiropractic degree; and a master’s degree in acupuncture. She wrote “Get a Mentor: Professional Advice Contributes to Success” for the October 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.