The Simple Joy of Being a Mentor

I believe mentoring is simple.

You respond to questions from a younger person with sincerity, perspective, and compassion. It is not a process to tell someone the answer, or your answer, but to give them a shoulder to lean on that is objective, sympathetic, and desiring to help.

I have found young people looking for a sympathetic and experienced ear, looking for dialogue, whether considering a career option, deciding on a college or a program, selecting courses, selecting a specialty, applying for a job, or facing a question in the practice of planning.

Don't be dogmatic. Do be empathetic and simply try to respond to their question or concern.

Personal dialogue is what it is all about. It is a flexible role and it should not be a rigid and structured thing ... an experienced planner reaching out to a less experienced planner or student, saying, what can I do to help, here are my thoughts.

God bless all who want to reach out and help, and not get lost in too much semantics and formalism.

The Ultimate Goal

The overall goal of mentoring is to offer students and young professionals, an experienced planner who is willing to help them in understanding alternatives and their implications as they advance in the profession. Anyone who has been elected to the College of Fellows has had experiences that qualify them as potential mentors.

Any practicing planner with a few years of experience and a genuine desire to help younger planners can also fill a vital role in mentoring. The role of the mentor is not to tell someone what to do, or lecture them on the mentor’s opinions, but to respond to questions initiated by the less experienced and younger person that help them make informed decisions consistent with their specific interests, abilities, and situation.

A mentor can suggest alternatives and their implications from which a young planner can make better decisions.

Mentor Selection

Mentors should be chosen by a student or young professional based on their review of the mentor’s background and resume. This implies a website that contains the resumes and background of each person who volunteers to serve as a mentor.

APA will help match interests of a mentor with those of younger planners seeking such a relationship.

Participate in NPC18 Mentor Match

The Mentor Match program connects emerging professional with seasoned professionals for the duration of the 2018 National Planning Conference in New Orleans, April 21–24, 2018.

This is an opportunity to make the most of the professional connections among APA members at the conference to share advice about career and professional development.

Deadline for applications is passed.

For more tips from Pete, check out Questions a Mentor May Be Asked.


About the Author
Peter Pointner, FAICP, is an independent consultant committed to the creation of sustainable communities which are in harmony with the human, natural, and man-made environments of which they are a part. He has espoused environmentally based planning in a professional career that has spanned more than 50 years. Pointner is an architect and planner and a life member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. In 2002 he was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

March 20, 2018

By Norbert Pointner, FAICP