The Unlocking SAA series helps new SAA members navigate all the things membership offers us. In this post, Gabrielle Spiers talks about how to sign up for a mentor and how and when to become one.
Guest author: Gabrielle Spiers
Archives Technician at the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park and Co-Chair of the Mentoring Program
For me mentoring has been a great way to get guidance and advice from people who have been in the profession longer than I have. I have been lucky enough to have had several mentors whose guidance has helped me and who have been great resources for me to turn to. Some of these have been informal and turned into something more, a favorite professor, a more experienced co-worker and others. I have also had the opportunity to be a mentor to interns and watching them flourish and grow has been incredibly satisfying. Of course, while informal mentoring can be great, I also realize that not everyone has the opportunity to find mentors at their place of work or while in school.
Right after I left school and moved back to Washington, DC, I was at something of a loss career-wise. I knew I wanted to work in archives but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen. I discovered going through SAA’s website that SAA has a mentoring program. I signed up and it was not that much later that I was matched with a mentor. I really enjoyed getting to know my mentor through our emails and phone calls and she gave me lots of useful career advice. She gave me suggestions for my resume and she was another set of eyes for my cover letters. I also got the opportunity to meet my mentor in- person at a SAA conference, which was a nice bonus to meet face to face. My positive experience with the mentoring program at SAA is why I agreed to co-chair the mentoring sub-committee and why I am going to be a mentor for the program.
Here are answers to some basic questions:
What is the mentoring program and do I have to be an SAA member?
The mentoring program is a program that matches mentors and protégés together based on professional interests. The mentoring subcommittee are the people who make the matches. Yes, you have to be a member of SAA to participate.
What does the program involve?
After being matched, you will get an e-mail introduction from one of the mentoring committee members and then you and your mentor/protégé can set up communication. Most participants choose a combination of e-mails and phone calls on a monthly basis. There is also the opportunity to meet up at SAA or a regional conference if your mentor is close by.
What about meeting in person?
If you can meet in person, that is always welcome, but not required. If you can’t attend SAA, that is not a requirement. A lot of our matches never meet in person, but helping each other is what this program is all about.
What happens if it doesn’t work out?
Not all mentor/protégé matches succeed. If for whatever reason it doesn’t work then we will reassign you to someone else. Don’t feel bad because sometimes things just don’t work out or one of the parties realizes that they don’t have as much time as they thought they would.
What if I am interested in being a mentor? What if I don’t have that much experience?
Sometimes people have this idea that being a mentor means that you have to be all-knowing or very experienced and that isn’t necessarily true. During school or in your first professional job you have been developing skills. These skills and areas of interest might be things that other archivists don’t know very much about and are interested in learning about. If you have been in the profession for at least three years, you have a lot of experience that can help new students in the field. Please consider being a mentor.
To become a mentor or a protégé, please fill out the application.