John Klossner

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Klossner: How to recognize the mentors in your life

It's Rising Star time, the 1105 Government Information Group’s annual recognition of people who will someday be our bosses. This year's class (being honored Oct. 22 at the GCN Gala) was asked about their mentors -- people who helped them along the way. Since these are Rising Stars, I expect them to do the right thing: Name someone who can be the most useful to them in the future or someone who can help them move up in the agency, or make a profitable connection.

I used to have a basketball coach who was a throwback from an old movie, especially in his ability to spout sport cliches. One of his sayings was, "It takes two people to throw a pass; one to throw and one to catch." I would alter this for the purposes of mentoring: It takes two people to mentor; one to mentor, and one to be mentored. (Picture me spitting into the ground after saying this. Hopefully, I'm outside.) While I respect the Rising Stars' ability to recognize and thank someone for helping them, I find it as equally impressive when a talented person recognizes their need to learn and so listens to someone's experience. (I remember -- and cringe at the memory of -- the ego of my 20s.)

Personally, I would like the off-the-record version of the Rising Star discussions. This would cover the people who were helpful to us in ways that aren't so clearly recognizable. Besides, one person can't be an all-purpose mentor. There are many things we learn along the way, and many people who have influenced us in the process. Some of my favorite mentoring experiences are the unintentional ones -- the person I encounter every day in non-work environments that may teach me something without either of us having intended it. I hope that I have been the mentor in such a situation -- you never know that until after the fact.

(As a parent I run into unintentional mentors all over the place, people who set examples on how to deal with parenting situations or give me appropriate language for speaking with children of all ages.)

There are so many skills that won't be acknowledged in the Rising Star coverage. (Some of my listings feel like lightning strikes -- a one time event that may have changed your life, as opposed to mentoring that took place over a longer period of time.) That said, here's my list of questions that can help identify the unacknowledged mentors in our lives.

* Who told you about that "easy" course in college that you took because you needed to fill a space on your schedule but which has now become your career?
* Who gave us the proper -- okay, exact -- wording to put on our federal job application?
* Who showed us that we could lead useful, productive lives without first logging onto Facebook?
* Who told us the best lunch special near work?
* Who told us which of the office elevators was the faster one?
* Who told us that Cobol wasn't a race from another planet in Star Trek?
* Who told us about that obscure British sitcom, The IT Crowd?
* Who told us where to find cheap -- oops, inexpensive -- work clothing?
* Who taught us how to make guacamole? And how to eat it?
* Who took us to our first Jackie Chan movie?
* Who gave us Orioles or Nationals tickets while assuring us that professional baseball would return to the region someday?

Klossner FCW mentoring

Posted by John Klossner on Sep 25, 2009 at 12:18 PM


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