Megan Lynch is a guest blogger for GXunited, and has over 10 years of experience in management, teaching, and personal training.
When I started in the Fitness Industry over a decade ago, I was thrown into the world of personal training and group exercise in such a manner I felt like a clownfish getting dumped into a tank of sharks. This world was new to me and I was armed with only a degree in Kinesiology. I had no one to guide me through the waters. I felt like it was quite literally sink-or-swim time. The only thing I was confident about was that I knew myself well enough to know if I was going to do this job, I was going to do it right!
Where do I begin!?
But where do I begin? I asked myself that question many times over. I knew I wanted a certification; so I became an ACSM-CPT. I knew I wanted more techniques for instructing in a group setting; so I became a certified GXI. I knew I wanted to feel like I had the education to back me up. And I did. But what I was lacking was experience.
Enter my first mentor.
It was a chance encounter that lead to the booking of two personal training sessions over the course of a weekend. JoAnne was going to be on vacation and wanted to train while she was in town. I asked her to attend my Circuit class the first day she got there so we could meet prior to the sessions. At the time, all I saw was that her form was perfect. What was I possibly going to teach her? And after the first session, my confidence was even more shaken when I saw her in my boss’s office. Great!, I thought. What did I do wrong?
As it turned out, JoAnne was a Fitness Director in the town where she lived and she had previously worked at the place where I was then employed. She had twenty years of experience in the industry. And fortunately, she was telling my boss how good she thought I already was. By the end of her second session, we had connected so well our mentor relationship was set in motion. And she had given me my first challenge. But more than that, JoAnne had given me what I felt was my first swimming lesson. This little clownfish now had a shark by her side!
Fast-forward 10 years, and I am now in a role of Fitness Director. But even with a decade of experience, I still have a lot to learn. Let’s face it, in this Industry, learning is a never-ending process! My mentor relationship with JoAnne had tapered since she retired and in my new role – with greater responsibilities – I was once again feeling like that clownfish. But fortuitously for me, a decision I made after attending a Shockwave session at a fitness convention in 2015 connected me with the mentor who has been most influential in my professional life: Industry Leader and International Presenter, Doris Thews.
Working with Doris has taught me that there are many reasons why having a mentor could make ALL the difference. But the following are my top five:
- Experience! Whether you are just getting thrown into the elusive shark tank or you’ve been in the Industry for over a decade, having the right mentor – someone who can guide you with both knowledge and inspiration – is essential for professional growth. A mentor’s experience can become invaluable to every lesson that flows your way, from the smallest detail of a plan to your biggest vision yet.
- Decision-Making! A mentor can provide insight to your decision-making processes that may enable you to avoid mistakes or ensure you are headed in the right direction. Because, let’s face it – they have the experience, so they’ve probably been there! And if the mentor does not work for the same company as you, it is likely their advice will not hold bias. A mentor can help you look at your options from a new or fresh perspective and add the awareness of a seasoned professional.
- Networking! You’ve probably heard the quote, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Well, having the right mentor can not only teach you the what, but it can connect you with the who. The right mentor will engage you professionally and encourage you to both establish and to cultivate connections with other respected professionals, within the Industry and beyond.
- Opportunities! Feeling like that clownfish in a tank full of sharks? Having a trusted mentor can help potentiate your confidence. The right mentor has your best interests in mind and is willing to invest in you – so much so that they will challenge your potential for growth! They can guide you through the open waters, and they can help you to identify which “opportunities” aren’t. (And if you want to see this reason in action, sign up for Shockwave Inferno at the IDEA World Fitness Convention and watch as I get the opportunity to help coach alongside my mentor!)
- Support! The support from a mentor comes from their passion to encourage your success. For me, the support I received from Doris was initially overwhelming – I had never had a colleague sincerely believe in me the way she did (and continues to do)! And it is because of that support that I am becoming a better, more effective and, ultimately, more valuable leader.
Seek out a Mentor!
So whether you’re brand new to this Industry or have over a decade of experience already, I encourage you to seek out a mentor. Having a mentor could make all the difference in teaching you how to swim. But having the right mentor could make all the difference in guiding you through the open waters and teaching you how to swim with the sharks!
GXunited has a great team of industry leaders who would be more than happy to provide guidance and support as a mentor. Check out our team and connect with anyone who you feel could be a great fit as a mentor for you!