My name is Norma Martinez-Rubin and I am an independent program evaluator, occasional trainer, and public health practitioner. Having chosen program evaluation as a second-career focus (www.EvaluationFocused.com) the necessity to ramp up, jump in, and practice the art and science of evaluation as best possible led me to revisit a career strategy to which I was introduced a few decades ago: build your skills by working with a preceptor or mentor. But how does one find that mentor? Where does one start? How do we enlist their participation in our development? Since I joined AEA in 2006, I’ve explored some of the AEA’s many offerings, actively participated, and remained involved to varying degrees. I’ve come to realize that one doesn’t necessarily need a formal arrangement to be mentored. The “right” mentor will be the person who willfully takes a few minutes to guide you to a resource, listens to you, or simply exchanges a thing or two that they’ve learned and thus, frees you to take that (or not) and make it your own. You know that query, “What would you do if you couldn’t fail?” It’s a reminder of the requisite optimism and willingness to test, try, and move on for more —-successful or not, there’s always more!
I realize that there are readers of this blog who are interested in a mentor-mentee arrangement that is more formal than that. Becky Melzer (www.evaluationedge.com) and I reported a bit on that in 2009. (See our posts in the AEA e-Library.) In the absence of any formal mentor-mentee arrangement, here are some tips to get you in a frame of mind to seek out colleagues with whom you can exchange pearls of wisdom:
Hot Tip: Mix business with pleasure . . . Attend a TIG’s business meeting while at the next AEA conference. You’ll get a feel for the group’s sense of collegiality, identify with who you’ll remain in contact through the year, and determine how you might contribute. In a volunteer-run structure, seldom is a person’s time and energy turned away. What fuels a potential mentor-mentee relationship, however subtle, is a continual interest in finding ways for mutual benefit.
Hot Tip: S-T-R-E-T-C-H Consider initiating a mini-project with others. For example, seek assistance to jointly present or contribute toward an AEA conference presentation. Among the benefits of working collaboratively are the small lessons (e.g., meeting timelines, negotiating, asking for help) you learn about yourself in relation to another.