You are not alone.

posted by Lisa Meloncon

As some of you know, I’m part of the steering committee of Women in Technical Communication, which is a group dedicated to doing mentoring better. (And hey, we just won an award.) We’ve found in our research that existing models of mentoring don’t really work and a big part of the reason for that is because of existing power structures. I won’t go down the power road (cause if you’re interested you can read our proceedings paper), but I will say that working with Women in Tech Comm has made me realize the real need for better ways to mentor, better ways to help one another live more balanced and happy lives.

Speaking of lives, It’s not unusual for parts to intersect, which is why I’m writing about the work we’ve done around mentoring. While our efforts have focused on women in technical and professional communication, I have no doubt the need exists across all of higher education for women and men alike. That’s why I’m writing today.

I’ve been working on getting the details worked out for the 2015 Symposium and one of things I’m looking forward to is being able to discuss my work with other scholars who do work similar to mine. One area where many grad students and faculty encounter problems is when they are the only person at their institution that does “X.” That makes for a lonely existence. But, the good thing is if you work in the area of the rhetorics of health and medicine you are never the only person.

This is the perfect time for a reminder. Let me say this directly and clearly. Unless you reach out, no one will know that you’re struggling or if you need help.

There’s a growing community of people who are excited about this work and enjoy talking about it from a research, teaching, or service perspective. Our ranks run the spectrum from full professors to graduate students at all types of institutions.

The most remarkable thing about many of the groups I’m involved with is the overwhelming generosity of many people in those groups. When someone says to you, that she would be happy to talk or would be glad to read something, she really means it.

We really, really do.

Let’s face it. We’re all busy. There are days when the feeling that you can and will never get everything done feels like a ton of bricks on your shoulders. But I feel confident in speaking for some of my colleagues, we can generally make the time to help.  And if for some reason, your request has hit at the most inopportune time,  then most folks will tell you that and refer you to someone who can help. That’s how a participatory mentoring model works.

When you find you need some help, think through what it is that you most need. Do you need someone to bounce ideas off of? Have you hit a spot and you need to talk through it? Do you have an intro that is driving you crazy? Do you have a piece that has multiple ideas and you can’t figure out how to focus it? It’s important to have a sense of what it is you need before you send that initial email. This way both you and the person you’re asking know what’s expected. BTW, I so get it, though, that sometimes you don’t know exactly what the issue is. And that’s ok, too. But at least you’ve thought through it enough to explain that 😉

One you have an idea of what you need, reach out. If you’re not certain who to contact, by all means send me an email and I’ll help you or find someone much better that can! So don’t let your own fears hold you back.

You are never alone in this job. Welcome, you are part of a community.


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