Find Yourself a Mentor

September 13, 2011 | By Guest Contributor | Post a Comment

(This guest post was written by Dr. Phyl Renninger and Dr. Karen Stinson, co-authors of a number of Thompson’s grant-related publications.  Dr. Renninger is the Director of Resource Development for Florida State College at Jacksonville and the president of the Florida Council for Resource Development. Dr. Stinson is the Director of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and has successfully written proposals for millions of dollars in state and federal grants.) Have you considered what skills you currently have and how you can develop and expand those skills?  Increased skills could mean that you work smarter and not harder, and that you are primed for the next promotion in your field. So why aren’t we identifying our strengths and weaknesses and launching our plans for self-renewal and -improvement? In the grants field, we are often so busy writing, editing and researching that it is difficult to find time to even keep up, let alone take on new tasks. And horrors of horrors, what if we do develop new skills and then have to add them to our array of tasks that we are already expected to master?

You might want to look at the most common and some of the more tricky issues that you must deal with in your grant work and determine which areas might benefit from additional knowledge or skills.  The list could include things ranging from the people skills of communication, leadership, planning and relationship building to the organizational skills of gathering and reporting data in understandable and dramatic ways, developing short- and long-range strategic plans, mastering logic models and asset mapping and implementation and fiscal management.  Spend some time analyzing your grant-related strengths and weaknesses and then think about the kinds of skills that you would like to develop.

Next, find a mentor who can help you put those insights into action.  While someone can’t always be beside you to coach and cheerlead while you try new tasks and master new skills, a mentor can occasionally assist you to master the nuts and bolts of your job while helping you think about new ways to develop your talents. A mentor could be your boss, a colleague or someone from another agency.  There are also a number of professional organizations and training groups, conferences and meetings that can provide you with a network of other professionals who might be willing to serve as a mentor.  By further developing your strengths, you will have something that you can subsequently offer as your own area of expertise in person or online.

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