Staying in the Workplace when you have HD: Find a Mentor

One of the recommendations that I give people when they have Huntington’s Disease and they would like to stay in their career for a long time is to find themselves a reliable mentor.  A mentor is a guide who can help the mentee to find the right direction and who can help them to develop solutions to career and communication issues.

Benefits of having a mentor include having:

  • an insider’s perspective on navigating your career
  • someone to bounce ideas off
  • a champion to cheer you on
  • someone to hold you accountable
  • receive critical feedback
  • exposure to diverse perspectives and experiences
  • someone to provide you with impartial advice
  • someone to boost your career prospects and growth
  • someone who has greater knowledge of career success factors
  • someone to help you to succeed if you do the work
  • access to your mentor’s network of contacts
  • insight to real-world experiences
  • a chance to learn specific skills and knowledge that are relevant to professional goals
  • increased capacity to translate values and strategies into productive actions
  • increased self-awareness and self-discipline
  • someone who may be able to help mediate in heated discussions

Where to start?  Maybe your company has a mentoring program?  Ask you HR director if they have such a program.  If they don’t then prepare a few examples of people within the company that you feel may qualify as a good mentor for you.  Request that the HR director talk with these potential candidates and their supervisor in order to determine if they have available time to mentor you.  Of course also keep your supervisor in the loop.

People with HD often have difficulties with time management, multi-tasking, project initiation or completion, memory, and communication.  Explaining to your mentor that having someone who can provide you with additional clear and concise direction will help you succeed in accomplishing your company’s objectives.  It will also provide additional support to your supervisor if they are not able to provide you with such direction.

“Reverse mentoring” or having someone “lower on the totem pole” mentor you may also be an effective strategy.  You would be surprised at the great advice and direction they may be able to provide.  They may have a new and unique perspective on situations and projects that may be very beneficial.

Meeting with your mentor should be fairly regularly such as twice a week or monthly.  Keep the meetings professional.  Spending too much of their time talking about your social life could hinder the overall objective of keeping you work-worthy and on-task.  It could also cause your HR manager to request that you end the mentoring relationship.  The meeting should be no longer than an hour.  Sometimes meeting at lunch, the gym or on the basketball court is helpful too.

Eventually consider becoming a mentor sometime in your career.  I feel that this gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise while I am still able to communicate.  It makes me feel valuable and confident.  It also helps me look at myself objectively.  If I am providing advice on good business practice, I better be following it myself.

Benefits of Being a Mentor

  • Satisfaction knowing that you are helping someone to achieve their professional goals.
  • Affirmation of professional competence.
  • Opportunity to build your leadership and management skills.
  • Opportunity to give back to your industry.
  • Opportunity to build an enduring career network.
  • Gain insights and different perspectives from future members of your profession.

My father owned a dental laboratory.  Towards the end of his career, he had alienated all of his colleagues and employees.  He had no one to work with except for his clients.  He work alone in a big laboratory…no one to talk to…no one to bounce ideas off of.  This is when he experienced the deterioration in his ability to see reason.  He conjured up the most absurd ideas and then ruminated on them.  And no one was there to stifle this strange development.  He got worse.  Then his dementia boiled over to where he took his anxiety, anger, and inappropriate thoughts out into the real world where he could harm people.

He’s better now but I want people to understand that there are ways to prevent these types of scenarios from happening.  You can keep your cool and stay in the workplace for a very long time.  Having a mentor can only help you as the disease progresses.

Thank you all for the wonderful comments!  Keep them coming!  Share my blog and please stay positive and hopeful.  We will all get through this together.

Love,

Mackenzie

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