Finding your Professional Development/CPD mentor- By: Bill Wong, OTD/OTR/L (@BillWongOT)
Behind many successful OT practitioners, they either have their own CPD mentors or mentoring teams. For example, I once overheard that Charles Christensen supported Michael Iwama’s OT journey. I also overheard that Barbara Kornblau (former AOTA president) supported Shawn Phipps’ OT journey. (Shawn is one of the members of my CPD mentoring team.) I am sure there are countless stories of others in OT land as well.
In my own OT journey so far, I had experience with a singular CPD mentor and a CPD mentoring team. My first CPD mentor was the late Terry Olivas De La O. (Those of you who participated in #otalk in its earlier days may remember who she was. But for those of you who didn’t participate in #otalk in its early days, I will fill you in a bit about her. Terry was a certified occupational therapy assistant in the USA. She was highlighted in the 2012 Slagle Lecture by Karen Jacobs. She was also amongst the 1% of certified occupational therapy assistants who received the Roster of Honor designation in the USA, which is equivalent to a fellow for that position in the UK for occupational therapists. She was known for her passion in anti-bullying, as well as getting the word about #valueofOT out to the general public. Unfortunately, she passed away in early 2014 due to a host of health issues.) After Terry passed away, I spent two months looking for her replacement. I ended up with Michael Iwama, Barbara Kornblau, and Shawn Phipps as my CPD mentoring team.
What led me to a team approach vs. a singular mentor? I actually borrowed the concept from Major League Baseball (MLB), as I am a baseball fan. Since the early 2010’s, many successful MLB teams started to implement a team approach with its hitting and pitching departments. (For those of you who don’t follow baseball, hitting and pitching are two of the most important elements of baseball.) Therefore, I thought, “If successful MLB teams can make a team approach work, why can’t I do that for my CPD?” 6 years into having this approach, I would say it has worked out pretty well for me. The primary benefit for me- sometimes I need to hear certain things explained to me in another way so that I can maximize my professional potential.
I will switch to a Q & A format for the rest of the blog.
Q: When is it a good time to find a CPD mentor or mentoring team?
A: It depends on you. My own suggestion is ASAP. My reasoning is- If your mentor(s) already have rapport with you, they will be more likely to give you direct constructive advice.
Q: Why do you want a CPD mentor/mentoring team?
A: Early on in my OT journey, I realized that I have a lot of potential to make a difference in the OT world. However, I need people to provide clarity on the steps to help me reach my potential. Fast forward to today, I want my mentors to be my accountability partners for my CPD goals.
Q: What qualities do you want from your mentors?
A: For me personally, I look for compatibility and competence. Compatibility is important because I want to hear advice by people I want to hear from. Competence is important because I don’t want to waste time and effort on doing things that are not constructive or relevant to me. In addition, there are times I also want to know if things I want at the time are really to my best interests.
Q: How do you go about finding your mentors?
A: For my first couple years in my OT journey, I did a lot of window shopping. After all, I am an introvert. I needed time to figure out a list of people who would fit my criteria, as I started my OT journey without really knowing anyone in OT well. Then, when I found Terry, I popped the question when I met her in person for the first time about a year after connecting on Facebook. At that time, because I was fairly new to the profession, being local was also an important criteria. After all, we met several times during our two years of mentor-mentee relationship together. As for Barbara, Michael, and Shawn, I settled on them because I tried to replicate what I had with Terry. However, geography wise, I no longer needed a mentor that is geographically close to me (although Shawn is actually so) because Terry did such a good job with me.
Of course, there can also be some quick and easy ways, too. Sometimes there are formal mentorship programs. For example, earlier this decade, AOTA has the Emerging Leaders Development Program. Since then, some state associations in the USA copied the same blueprint. Recently, COTAD has launched its minority mentorship program. (I am not in tune of what’s available in countries outside of USA, however.)
Q: What else have you really learned?
A: A mentor-mentee relationship should be a collaborative process. The mentor should not be forcing on his/her agenda to the mentee. Instead, the mentor can suggest things for the mentee to do while keeping in mind of his/her interests. Meanwhile, the mentee should be an active participant in the relationship. This includes taking charge of his/her development, making appointments to chat with his/her mentor, and doing as much homework as he/she can before asking mentor for advice. Another thing- if you have no preferences geography wise, you will have a bigger pool of potential mentors to choose from.
Q: Can I change mentors over the course of my career?
A: Of course. In some formal mentoring programs, you will have to be with your assigned mentor for a certain period of time. After that time is over, it is up to you to decide whether you want to continue the relationship or not off the program. Meanwhile, some of my mentees stopped asking me for advice when they felt like they no longer needed me.
- Do you have a CPD mentor or mentoring team? If you have one, what qualities are you looking for?
- Do you have CPD mentees? If so, what qualities are you looking for?
- If you have a choice, do you prefer a formal or informal mentorship arrangement? Why?
- If you have a choice of anyone in OT to be your mentor/part of your mentoring team, who are they? Why?
Transcript PDF below