Are you able to articulate what you do to someone else so that they can understand it? Think about one task that’s part of your job that you perform on a daily basis. Now, think about this:
- How would you explain it to a person you are teaching to do that exact same task?
- What kinds of questions would you anticipate?
- Can you address those questions in advance?
- What is a logical order you can put everything into that would make the task understandable and easy to perform?
- How would you teach it to one person?
- How would you teach it to a classroom full of people?
If you really want to excel at what you do and hone your skills, think about how you would teach it to someone else.
Doing this will not only force you to break everything down into easy-to-digest components, but it will also shed light on what you don’t know.
- What’s something a student might ask you that you don’t have a ready answer for?
- Can you look up an answer and explain it?
If so, you just grew your skills and your knowledge.
You may have already connected with a mentor who is teaching you certain things about your career. That is an important part of your journey to building a successful career. You need someone that you can ask questions of, both about technical things and about your career itself.
But you should also be on the look out to teach things to other people yourself.
You might say, my career is just starting. What do I possibly have to offer someone who wants to look to me as a mentor? Well, if you are fresh out of school and still looking for your first job, you might be right.
You probably aren’t going to mentor anyone in their careers for a while until you’ve established yours and started making real mistakes and having concrete victories. But that doesn’t mean you can’t teach people, and, as a byproduct, grow your own skills in the process.
If you’re just finishing up your training – whether it’s obtaining a certification, wrapping up a degree of some kind, or something along those lines, consider how you might have struggled as a student.
Didn’t you wish someone would sit down with you and work through some of the problems you were experiencing, and answer questions, and explain things to you so that you could understand?
Didn’t your eyes start to blur after reading yet another technical manual that you had to try and translate into layman’s terms so you could learn what you needed to learn?
Other people feel the same way you felt.
You may have friends going through the same kinds of classes or training courses you took who are struggling. Why not try to help them out? Sit down with them over lunch and ask them how their certification process is going.
See if you can offer some insights. How did you work through the problems they were having right now?
You are almost always ahead of someone and can lend them a hand up to your current level.
By offering your services as a teacher, tutor, and yes – a mentor – you will find other benefits accumulate besides just your deepening understanding of your field.
You will develop positive affiliations with other people that may result in an expansion of your professional network.
The person you help unravel that tricky problem on a practice certification test may get a job with a big IT company – who is the first person they are going to think of when they hear about a job opening?
Building good karma and loyalty now can pay off significantly in the future. You never know who the guy sitting next to you in class knows and what a little assistance and friendship will gain for you.
Being a mentor and a teacher also has positive psychological effects.
Your self-esteem rises when you know you’ve really helped someone work through a difficult problem. If you are already working at a job and people consistently turn to you for help and answers, you are also building up your value to the company and increasing your job security.
If you are not in a position where you can directly mentor or teach people, keep in mind that the Internet is a vast and popular place for IT people.
If you specialize in SAP, why not find a Facebook group for SAP professionals or a community forum? Become active. Get involved. Start answering questions and developing relationships.
The tangible and intangible rewards you will reap will be worth it. Trust me.