My Commitment to Professional Development

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Celia Esposito-Noy is Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, CA and is past President of the CCCCSSAA Board.  She has had the benefit of being both a mentee and mentor and is active with the ACCCA mentor program. 

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Celia Esposito-Noy, Vice President, Student Services & Enrollment Management

In this article, the author touts the value of mentoring as part of her commitment to professional development. If you’ve served well as a mentor, you know that mentoring is both emotionally taxing and time consuming.  It is however, one of the best things we can do for ourselves, our organization, and our profession.  With several clear tips, it is a keen insight into the mentoring process.


I just lost another Dean.  In the past six years as Vice President for Student Services, both of my student services Deans have moved up and out.  I have had a couple of interim Deans and recently hired a permanent Dean and am getting ready to hire another in the coming months.  Yes, you could say that I’m tough on Deans.  I’m also committed to their personal and professional growth and development and when it comes to mentoring, I take the job seriously. 
My commitment to mentoring is in part due to a personal need to nurture others and in part a need to nurture our profession by cultivating the next generation of California community college leaders.  If you’ve served well as a mentor, you know that mentoring is both emotionally taxing and time consuming.  It is however, one of the best things we can do for ourselves, our organization, and our profession.  Here are some of my thoughts on the important aspects of successful mentoring:

• Professional development is a daily activity most often learned by observing leadership behavior.  What you do, how you do it, and the context for your behaviors are best understood when consistently demonstrated and explained to your mentee.
• Provide opportunities and activities for your mentee to demonstrate his knowledge in both breadth and depth.  If the scope of his responsibility does not allow for complex decision making, share scenarios and ask how he might handle the situation.
• Establish indicators for growth and excellence.  How does your mentee know when she’s ready for the next position?  How will you know she is ready?  How will others know?
• Share the “hidden rules of the workplace”.  In some organizations, new administrators can be destroyed for not knowing what they were never told.  If the standard is that a call from the Chancellor is always taken immediately, let the new person know.  If the organization values a 24 hour turnaround in response to emails, let it be known.  Some organizations believe that their practices are common knowledge.  Don’t let your mentee fall into the “should have known” pit.
• Spelling, grammar, and sentence structure in email communication does matter.  Don’t be sloppy and don’t let your mentee be sloppy.  If your mentee has challenges with writing or verbal communication, establish an approach to address the issue. 
• Discuss difficult issues and do so in a way that is meaningful.  Telling a mentee that “people find you abrasive” is not as helpful as providing her ways in which she can assess and modify her tone, delivery, and content (often it starts with using “we” instead of “you” in communications).
• If colleagues don’t see your mentee as “management/leadership material”, find out why.  If the perception is based on one or multiple experiences, determine if there is a situation (large group meetings, meeting one-on-one, etc.) that may be difficult for your mentee to negotiate.  Develop opportunities for your mentee to demonstrate management/leadership qualities and have her assess her progress.
• Teach your mentee the importance of integrity, discretion, and strong core values.  Talk through issues and help your mentee see over the top, from underneath, through and around the issues.  Teach your mentee the importance of seeing issues through others’ eyes.
• Help your mentee understand his strengths and the importance of job “fit”.  So often our success as leaders has to do with being in the right job at the right time and with the right people.  Let your mentee know that his success as a manager/leader is in part dependent on who he is working for and with. 

There are other aspects that are equally important- demonstrating an understanding of serving diverse populations, learning how to comfortably negotiate political situations, and learning the value of being comfortable with discomfort.  Confident managers/leaders understand that the collective self- intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physiological- all contribute to successful leadership qualities.  In the next issue of the iJournal, I’ll share some specific activities that have helped make my mentor/mentee experiences valuable.