As children, we needed role models to guide us in becoming the successful adults that we are today. Our parents, grandparents, teachers, and other adults with years of experience living mentored us in proper living. As we grow older, our need for mentors remains, but the focus shifts to career mentors.
Take a moment to think, who are your career mentors? Do you have any? There is no contract or even spoken agreement that someone is a mentor, you may have developed the relationship with someone without being aware of it. However, if you find that you are indeed mentorless, it would be wise to seek one out. Below is a summary of some of the rewards of being mentored.
Note for successful and well-established intellectual property attorneys: Don’t stop reading here. Even if you are one of the best in your field, you should not dismiss the need for a mentor. There are aspects of mentorship that can be appreciated regardless of where you are in your career.
Culture and Environment
In our article about onboarding new hires, we discussed the challenges of entering a new work environment. Having someone help you become more acquainted with your new office can make transitions go easier. This is a good reason to try to find a mentor within your own office.
If you are a new attorney, a mentor can help you adjust to the law office environment. If you are an experienced attorney, your mentor can help you become more acquainted with the specific culture of the new office.
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton
New IP attorneys fresh out of law school come packed with legal knowledge and case studies, yet lack the real world experience that will give them the skills needed to succeed. There’s no reason for fresh attorneys to reinvent the wheel; mentors with years of experience can help them by sharing their experience.
Once again, even if you are an experienced professional, this can still apply to you. The expression, “you can’t teach an old dog a new trick,” is just not true.
Having a sounding board is important for everyone. While spouses can be amazing for this, they don’t necessarily work in the same field and may not be able to provide the necessary advice. A mentor within your field can listen while you work through issues and even advise you based on their own experience. They can help you find the solution to a difficult case, or be the conscience when you are stuck on a potential ethical dilemma.
If your mentor isn’t able to help, they know someone who can. Mentors can become a key part of your networking strategy, introducing you to new contacts. While they won’t necessarily be able to provide you with a job themselves, and you should hold no expectation that they will, they can introduce you to the person who will hire you. If you have been taking advantage of your mentor-mentee relationship, they should be a great reference for you.
Your mentor is there to help you grow, adapt, and reach your potential. It is important to remember this does not mean they are there to hold your hand, give you empty praise or do the work for you. You want your mentor to tell you when you are wrong and need to correct yourself, and to help you find out how to do the best on your own. This is how you will be able to grow and fill your role as a top-notch IP attorney.