Establish a relationship that guides the next generation of professionals

This monthly column is a collaboration between the Optical Women’s Association (OWA) and Optometric Management. Learn more at .

Show me a successful person, and I’ll show you someone who has a great support system. This holds true in every genre of success: entertainment, sports and, especially, business. Meryl Streep has Jane Fonda, Michael Jordan had Dean Smith and Steve Jobs had Nolan Bushnell.

Mentoring comes in several forms: It provides a safe haven for career advice; it’s a great foundation on which to bounce ideas; and it also can be a venue to vent professional roadblocks. Here’s how and why to establish a mentor relationship.


TWO TIPS for maintaining the mentor-mentee relationship:

The best feedback is real and honest. Mentors, you are doing your mentee a disservice if you aren’t providing information to help them grow.

Mentoring doesn’t have to be a one-way relationship. Mentors should be able to seek mentees’ advice as well. Perhaps it’s with learning a new social media platform or understanding the true pulse of the department.


First, outline exactly what you are looking for in the relationship, so you can communicate this to the other party. Some suggestions:

  • Are you looking for an informal or formal relationship?
  • Would you like career or project advice?
  • How often do you expect to touch base?
  • What are the best ways to communicate (in-person meeting, email, phone call, texts, social media)?
  • Your best way to receive feedback/comments?
  • Do you need direct feedback or a softer message?

Once you’ve established your mentor criteria, select someone who fits the bill, who you respect, is trustworthy and credible. You can find a mentor with your current employer or through business organizations, such as OWA.

Next, ask this person’s permission to develop a mentor/mentee relationship. (The answer is always “No” if you never ask.)


A few years ago, one of my professional “areas of opportunities” was public speaking. Anytime I was asked to talk in front of a group of people, I’d be overcome with panic and an avalanche of negative and unlikely events.

Instead of providing the typical vote of confidence and you-can-do-this speech, my mentor suggested I lean into my fear and offered to help me practice public speaking. His feedback was honest and direct. He pointed out specific techniques for me to gain confidence and told me to be myself. Then, he made the ultimate move: He asked me to fill in for him as a presenter during a training session. I jumped at the opportunity.

Weeks later, I presented and knocked it out the park! The audience did not fall asleep or answer their phones (maybe one person did); they were engaged — laughing and asking questions.

The first person I called was my mentor to let him know it went great. The small time he took out of his day to help me has changed my view of myself and opened a number of doors.


Over the years, I have had several people help me, each experience unique in its own way. As we continue to grow in our professional careers, keep open communication and willingness to learn. What’s more, pay it forward! Become a mentor to the next generation of professionals. OM

Dedicated to: Ed Repp, Kari Knapp, Sue Linzmeier, Laurent Pourthier, LaShanda Reed-Larry, Maureen Cavanagh, Legia Abato, Maggie Arganbright, Dan and Darci Monson, Donna Smith and my six and seven (they know who they are).