For several years, I’ve heard the benefits of mentorship and advocacy touted at professional seminars. I’ve been taught that professional growth happens most when you have a mentor or advocate. During my career I have had several mentors, of varying benefit. So on beginning work at SEI and being assigned an advocate (see last week’s post by Mark Oreszko), I was eager to learn more. I knew the basic description and purpose of an advocate – their primary goal is to act in your best interest internally and to act as a resource when one is needed to navigate new waters. But I wondered how realistic that was…would the reality match the claims?
Advocacy is unique in that it is internal to an organization or issue. An advocate directs, guides, fights for and provides counsel to, in this case, the SEI Staff Consultant. In my time at SEI, I have found that advocates do just that. I was fortunate to be assigned Mark Oreszko as my advocate, Mark always makes himself not only readily available, but proactively communicates events or points of interest. He is a resource for me, when I need one, and I do not feel intrusive when I take advantage of his availability, which is a sign of effective leadership.
SEI’s Advocate Program is designed to give SEI new hires a direct line to an advocate with experience. It is evident that a lot of thought has gone into the program, from the Advocate Code of Ethics to a detailed guideline of the Stages of Advocate Involvement.
Applying the SEI model outside of SEI
In a recent discussion with an organization with which I volunteer, someone mentioned that members occasionally feel isolated in their volunteering. She said that there was concern about members drifting and she wondered if there was a way to make volunteers feel more involved in the organization. I suggested an advocacy program, similar to SEI’s, as a way to promote inclusivity. I have provided some high level guidelines and best practices to help this community organization bring new and existing members into the fold. Who knows? This could lead to a community partnership… and all because SEI figured out internally how to ramp up its new employees, make them feel included and relevant and provide them with a seasoned advocate. SEI’s Advocacy Program makes a great organization to work, for even better.