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AAPOR
The leading association
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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Mentors, mentees, mentoring….. a key to our future

by Mollyann Brodie, President
Your AAPOR Executive Council just finished two days of in-person meetings where we tackled a wide range of topics including, but not limited to, the 2016 AAPOR budget, member retention and recruitment, efforts to increase diversity across our membership and volunteers, our journalist education efforts around the 2016 election, and what AAPOR can continue to do to shed light on the recent FCC ruling regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. We also talked at length about the various mentoring opportunities we currently provide and how we might enhance them in the future.

Volunteers from our Education Committee and our Membership and Chapters Relation Committee spent time exploring the range and types of programs other associations offer. After a rigorous review of the costs and benefits of these programs and a lively discussion, we concluded that, at least for the moment, we already offer a reasonable package of formal and informal opportunities for members that we can work on enhancing to better meet our goals, including programs like the conference docent program and the Roper and Student travel awards, instead of launching an additional new program.

But, on the long flight home to California, I was thinking more and more about how integral mentorship has been to me and how critical it is to our future. I know that every year I look forward to so many aspects of our Annual National Conference and my local chapter, PAPOR, conference.  Our conversation at the Council meeting made me think about one of the aspects I value most highly. Each year the AAPOR and the PAPOR Conferences give me a chance to check in (albeit sometimes briefly) with a host of special people:  my own mentors and mentees.

For many of us, the term MENTOR conjures up images of formal, long-term relationships in which a wise leader delivers sage advice to their younger, less-experienced protégée. In this cliché image, the mentor is an omniscient expert-in-all-things and the mentee is a passive recipient of objective wisdom. However, this “classic” picture doesn’t describe the type of mentorships I’ve had. In fact, over the years, what stands out to me is the tremendously important advice and insight from brief, informal conversations with colleagues at all stages of their career. I often spend only a few minutes talking with any given individual at AAPOR or PAPOR each year, but these brief interactions are often incredibly valuable to both the “mentor” and the “mentee”.

Personally, I’ve received tremendously helpful advice from “mentors” about how to handle difficult employee situations; how to hire more effectively; how to take on larger volunteer leadership roles in AAPOR while at the same time keeping my “day job” bosses happy and supportive; and how to think about my long-term career choices. On the other hand, I’ve had conversations where I’ve shared my thoughts with “mentees” on how to effectively manage a team through a maternity leave; how to handle a difficult boss or colleague; how to move to a new part of the country for the good of one’s family while also making a bold career move; and what graduate degree program makes the most sense.

In addition to their value to the specific individuals involved, these sorts of conversations represent what is among the best things about being a part of AAPOR. We are a community that values sharing information – whether that is intellectual and substantive findings and methods or advice on how to best manage a career, a project, a team, or the interaction between work and the rest of one’s priorities. We are a community that learns from one another - whether that is how to design an outstanding questionnaire or what’s the best way to search for a new job. We are a community that offers role models, voices and perspectives that might be missing from your own place of work or study. These dynamic-learning relationships are the lifeblood of AAPOR and as a community we rely on members to help kick ideas around, act as a sounding board and, yes, “mentor” each other, whether that takes the shape of a 5 minute walking conversation on the way to a panel, or regular monthly check-ins over coffee.

I urge you to take it upon yourself to reach out to someone for even the briefest of conversations at the next Chapter or National event, or through email or that old communication device we used to use – the good ole telephone, whether it’s to get or to give some advice or perspective. It makes us a better, stronger community and it gives us all the chance to exercise more than just our substantive expertise and make connections that will last a lifetime.

All the best-

Molly

AAPOR President