Long after your internship is over and your residency complete, people will look up to you as a role model. In your community, at your workplace, and on your travels, others will rely on your judgment, decision making, and leadership skills.
It takes discipline, commitment, and fortitude to become a physician, and because of that you will forever be seen as a reliable mentor in the eyes of the public. Always keep in mind that even if you haven't entered into a formal mentor/mentee relationship, others will be watching you from afar to see how you behave.
Here are five easy-to-adopt practices that will ensure you leave a positive mark on the myriad lives you are destined to touch:
1. Set high expectations. Whether you're just building your practice or are a seasoned pro, you can prepare for your life-long role as a mentor by creating a list of guiding principles that summarize how you will treat others and how you expect to be treated yourself. Pre-determining these standards will help you deal with the awkward experiences and difficult people you are bound to encounter during your career. Observers and protégés will take note of your natural ability to handle such circumstances with grace, and will very likely want to follow in your footsteps.
2. Exemplify model behavior. Even though you may not feel like you're in the public eye, you are — 24/7/365. Patients, students, family members, and neighbors will observe and potentially duplicate your behavior, so it's vital to demonstrate respectful and professional conduct at all times. Consistency matters and you need to walk the proverbial talk, even when you're off duty. Otherwise, you may come across as being insincere and untrustworthy.
3. Make quality decisions. Because you are in a position of authority, many people will naturally presume that your everyday choices are well thought out and practical. That's why it is imperative for you to think things through and make deliberate decisions in your personal life, as well as in your professional life. Logic, reason, and confidence need to be part of everything you do in order to lead an exemplary life.
4. Find a reverse mentor. No one wants to be seen as "an old fuddy-duddy," yet with such rapid technological and global changes, it can be hard to keep up with the times. That's where recruiting a younger person as your own personal mentor can come in handy. A reverse mentor is a valuable resource who will help you stay current in your thinking, processes, and language; ultimately enabling you to develop and maintain relationships with people of all generations.
5. Remember when. We learn from our mistakes, and the unique experiences you've had along the way can help others learn by proxy. When serving as a mentor it's particularly important to willingly share your stories and vulnerabilities. Laughter, tears, turmoil, and fear are common reactions to the road bumps we all encounter on our professional journey — allowing others to hear about your challenges will make you more approachable and keep you grounded.
Mentorship is a rewarding and mutually beneficial responsibility. Life creates remarkable stories for each of us; don't be afraid to share yours.
Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO™, a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant and confidence coach who helps individuals and businesses gain confidence, earn respect and create courteous corporate cultures. www.TheCivilityCEO.com