You Can Be a Mentor and a Mentee

“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.” – Cesar Chavez

The word “mentor” has its origin in Greek mythology. But that doesn’t mean you have to be old to be one! Today a mentor can be a trusted friend, a colleague, or any more experienced person who shares his or her knowledge to help advance a career, enhance education and build networks. Many professions and organizations have mentoring programs where newcomers are paired with more experienced people who advise them and serve as examples as they advance. Both the mentor and the mentee can benefit from being part of a mentoring relationship in ways you might not have thought about.

If you Google “mentoring,” you’ll find a wealth of information on how to start a program or how to become part of one that already exists in your industry. You’ll find many examples on the rewards that you can experience from being on either side of a mentor/mentee relationship.

A Real-Life Experience

Beverly Unrath, NL Director of Business Development, is a strong proponent of mentoring, and she has the experience to back up her convictions. After 14 years at the NL, she became involved in hiring and managing employees. She knew she had a lot to learn, so she signed up for the local Young Professionals mentoring program. She was assigned a mentor, Ann Reich, VP of the North Dakota Bankers Association. “She taught me more in six months than I learned in four years of college,” Unrath said. “She was fabulous! She not only shared her considerable knowledge with me, she also introduced me to the right people. Even though the six-month program has ended, she still reaches out to me and offers her help. She inspired me to set up peer group meetings through the NL. Our first peer group meeting of Legal Network Managers is taking place this month.” Beverly had such a good experience that she has also volunteered to be a mentor for the Professional Women in the Collection’s Industry Network.

The NL Mentor Program

The National List of Attorneys began its Mentor Program in June of 2008. We pair an experienced attorney member with a new NL member who may have no experience working for a collection agency forwarder, who has only done business locally and might not understand Industry norms, or who is looking for guidance on how to grow his or her collection practice. “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction,” said John C. Crosby, a former Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. [For more information, see NL E-newsletter articles on mentoring.]

Unrath recommends that the mentor and the mentee not live in the same state. Then they don’t have to worry about being in competition with each other. To help the mentee feel at ease, she has the Attorney member (mentor) reach out first with a call. A “Kick Sheet” of guidelines is sent to both the mentor and mentee. (See Guidelines below.) “We encourage our new mentors and mentees to meet up at conferences like NARCA and CLLA” Unrath said. “Neil Lyon of RI was mentored by Pete Ragan of NJ. Neil sent Pete a gift card for dinner “on him” as a thank you for all Pete had done to help him build his practice. Both men referred business to each other. People get so excited about what these relationships are doing for them. Great friendships can develop.”

How to Join

If you want to be part of the NL Mentor program, contact Beverly Unrath at or call 1-800-227-1675. Be prepared to say what you are hoping to gain from participating: know-how on growing your business, how to start pre-litigation work, how to hire and pay collectors, etc. “I like to get a feel for where both the mentor and the mentee are in their business development. I try to match personalities, time needed and time available, too. I take a lot of things into consideration,” Unrath states. Because she has been a mentor, a mentee and the manager of a mentoring program, don’t pass up the opportunity to learn from her advice or from being part of a mentoring program that will help you and others!

Mentor and Mentee Guidelines from NL “Kick Sheet”

Mentor: Define relationship boundaries such as time limitations, discussion topics, and confidentiality. Discuss and clarify expectations about frequency of contact and mentor/mentee roles. Identify and discuss mentoring relationship timeline and expectations.

Mentee: Be considerate of your mentor’s time. Before communicating with your mentor, take some time to think about what you want from the mentoring relationship. Ask what you’d like from your mentor, yet be sensitive to his/her time and resource constraints. Be open to new ideas. Be motivated and willing to gain from the mentoring relationship.

Share your experience with mentoring by entering a comment below!

by Nancy Lender with Beverly Unrath

Categories: National List, NL Insider

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