As part of our ongoing efforts to share information, the UET Online Magazine features important announcements on events and learning opportunities for bargaining unit employees. Listed below are links to specific timely information for UET Members. Create or update your User Profile by clicking MyUET to receive program updates and the UET Online Magazine by e-mail.
Sharing information is at the heart of being a member of OCSEA — and the focus of the Union Education Trust. Education is the only way to gain employment security and to build a strong union. One constructive way to do that in a workplace is to either be a mentor or have a mentor — or both!
What exactly is a mentor? Kathy Hannon explains in a 2015 article in Fortune magazine that a mentor speaks with you. Compare that to a coach who speaks to you, or a sponsor, who speaks for you. Hannon points out that mentors give you the safe space to discuss your ideas and perceptions. They, in turn, offer their suggestions and guidance. Anything you do with their wisdom is up to you!
It’s not necessary to wait for management to set up a mentoring program. Decide what type of a mentoring relationship you would like and pursue it yourself. Mentoring can be done informally or formally, whether using a set meeting time with a structured conversation or a casual, periodic check-in. If you are working remotely, using Zoom, MS-Teams, or similar virtual tools will offer you the opportunity to connect. Mentoring is particularly valuable for teleworking employees, enabling them to build rapport with their fellow employees.
Marianna Tu and Michael Li advise mentors and mentees to talk about personal subjects, not just work. They wrote in their May 12, 2021, Harvard Business Review article “What great mentorship looks like in a hybrid workplace,” that this type of mentorship “helps individuals connect their deeper human motivations and values to their careers.” That not only benefits the employee, but the employer, as well.
For newer employees, consider who you work with who has knowledge of the state government, the industry, the workplace, and OCSEA. Who do you feel has knowledge to share and you can build a relationship of trust with? Ask to meet with them at a time and location that is convenient and prepare some questions to break the ice. Don’t worry about what you don't know! Showing interest and openness will get the conversation started.
Even those who have some seniority in the workplace and the union may find that there is someone they’d like to get advice from. Consider having a younger mentor: Often people in the newer generation have different ways of approaching challenges and brainstorming solutions. Mentoring is also an ideal networking tool.
All eligible bargaining unit employees should consider how they can share their experience and wisdom with newer employees. Knowledge of the agency as well as the advantages and benefits of OCSEA membership are important to pass along. Do fellow employees take advantage of their UET opportunities? Share how you were able to advance your career goals with the support of the UET financial assistance. Tell them how convenient and simple the application process is and how beneficial taking a class — or a workshop, seminar or computer class — is to improving skills. Share your experiences in the workplace — both positive and negative — and what you learned from them.
The most important piece to a mentoring relationship is to listen. For both mentors and mentees, listening is essential to productive mentoring interactions and building trust. Be deliberate: If your mentoring arrangement is formal, set goals together and check in on your progress. If it’s an informal relationship, you should still make a point to check in with your mentor or mentee on a regular basis.
As workplaces have changed during the pandemic — and how employees conduct their responsibilities — mentoring has taken on an additional value. “In a time of incredible change, professional disruption, and overwhelming loneliness, mentorship can anchor us,” Tu and Li said.
Knowing that there is someone to talk with and who cares is essential to building a strong workplace but even more so: a strong union. Being part of a union means making connections. We are all part of something much bigger and stronger than any of us individually. As Tu and Li said, “Mentoring can help us stay resilient and connected in the face of… challenges.”