Mayo Clinic is a unique place: the culture, the values, the people. "Mayo Clinic Employee Experiences" explores the experiences of Mayo Clinic staff as they navigate life personally and professionally. Sharing these experiences increases understanding of others and ultimately contributes to finding connections, belonging and inclusion at work.
In this episode of Mayo Clinic Employee Experiences, you will hear from Michelle Gishkowsky, an IT program manager, and Marcia Core, an IT application architect, as they discuss their experiences with mentorship.
Gishkowsky talks about the joy she finds in being a mentor and the value she found in learning about the MentorSeed approach to mentoring. Core talks about how seeking a mentor helped her grow professionally and how she's stepping into the role of a mentor herself.
Listen as they discuss the joys, challenges, and power of mentorship:
NARRATOR: In this episode, you will hear Michelle, an IT program manager and mentor, and Marcia, an IT application architect and mentee, discuss their experiences with mentorship.
GISHKOWSKY: One of the interesting things about our relationship, which is now peer-to-peer, is we're friends because that's how it starts is through mentorship. The program started in 2019, and we had already started talking in January 2020. Then COVID happened, and we just weren't able to connect until October 2020.
When we started together, we started through MentorSeed. We had a bumpy start, but we picked it up. We made our own way, and we actually did very well.
As someone with an organizational development background, I was really impressed by MentorSeed and how that program approached training. There were several sessions that you could go to. Mentees got trained. Mentors got trained. Expectations were set and communicated. There were supporting documents. So, I felt like they had done all the work for me leading up to that first meeting so that I, as a mentor, was able to step into that first meeting and have my talking points. And Marcia and I both knew what to expect from that first meeting going forward, but as you and I started talking and interfacing more, the tools seemed more formal than both you and I.
CORE: In the beginning, we carved time out just to get to know each other on a personal basis. We needed to set that foundation for that trust. Then we were able to dig in and do some additional work.
GISHKOWSKY: I agree, Marcia. I could talk about personal things all day. That's why the structure of this program helped me focus.
CORE: I knew that was a responsibility, and I had better live up to it.
GISHKOWSKY: One of the things I love about mentoring and being a mentee — serving both roles — is that real honest and authentic relationship that you build. It has to be authentic. It has to be genuine to the two that are in that relationship, and Marcia, you and I did what worked for us.
CORE: One thing that I was looking for in the relationship was I wanted to move forward in my career. I felt it was time. I was looking for help in interviewing because my interviewing skills are the pits, and I really needed some help.
GISHKOWSKY: Not anymore.
CORE: You were able to help me tremendously, and your background in Human Resources really made a big difference there. I really appreciate that. But another thing, too, is needing to discuss with someone who was outside of my department what other opportunities and what things I might consider opening myself up to because, in my own area, there were some limited opportunities. What prompted you to become a mentor?
GISHKOWSKY: I have a love for the relationship that develops. It becomes a safe place. Sometimes, you just need somebody to listen and be your advocate and cheerleader. There's always advice we can get or give. It just feels different when it's coming from a mentor who is solely hyper-focused on you and your success.
CORE: It does take time to develop that trust between us, but I feel like we achieved that. I think that being honest with each other helped us work through our feelings. We're not alone.
GISHKOWSKY: If you're a mentee and, even if it's a newer relationship with a mentor, you've now inherited that mentor's network. I love helping my mentees. If they're having an issue or there's some barrier, I will reach out to my network and attempt to position either the mentee or my network to help.
CORE: And vice versa too. I was able to connect you with someone that I knew that I felt you could maybe get some advice and connect with as well.
What are some of your challenges of being a mentor?
GISHKOWSKY: Some of the challenges that I would experience from time to time would be having the right answer, not leading you astray, and giving you really bad advice. There's Mayo's answer. And then, sometimes, there's Michelle's answer. Those don't always meet in the middle. My other challenge and maybe everybody experiences this, but we have our good days and bad days. To lift you up and let you know, "Marcia, shake it off, get up dust yourself off," sometimes finding the right words can be challenging for me.
CORE: I didn't realize that you were nervous about giving me bad advice. I don't feel like you ever did, so that's an interesting perspective. I'll say that, for me, one of the difficulties is that I struggle with asking for help. So, knowing what to ask for, the onus was on me as a mentee to drive the agenda. That was intimidating at times. But, over time, we really became peers. I felt better sometimes when you asked me for my advice on something. Then I knew that, OK, I have received a lot from you. Now, I can offer some back. That really made me feel good. Another thing that you recommended was that I become a mentor myself.
One thing I want to recommend to others who are considering getting involved in MentorSeed or some other mentor and mentee relationship is to really give some thought about what you want, what your goals are, where you want to grow, and how you want to be challenged. Be willing to put in some extra work. It's not going to always be easy to facilitate and drive. I don't know if some mentees are recognizing that they really need to drive the way that the relationship evolves. If you click with that person — and sometimes you don't, and that's OK — you have to be willing to let that go. Be really honest with yourself and be willing to put in that extra work.
GISHKOWSKY: That's right. You can be a mentor no matter where you sit, no matter what you're doing, no matter what level of the organization you're at. You can be a mentor wherever you are. There's always somebody who's seeking, whether it's logistical help or just somebody to talk to.
The growth that I experienced is it made me wiser. It gave me the toolset, and it brought me back to the central focus. If you feel any inkling in mentoring others, do it. You will not regret it. It is a relationship that you will take with you for the rest of your career.
CORE: That was one thing that you told me, "You're stuck with me for life now."
NARRATOR: Formal and informal mentoring relationships can have huge benefits in your education and professional development. Consider how you want to grow or help others and seek out a new relationship.