“What is your way?”—Melody Martinez, CVT on the 2023 AAHA Mentoring Guidelines
“A good friend will encourage you to go for your dreams; a great friend (and, if you’re lucky, a great mentor) will encourage you to dig into whether you’re dreaming of the right things,” said Central Line host Katie Berlin, DVM, after her recent talk with Melody Martinez, CVT.
Martinez is the founder and principal consultant at Acorde Consulting, president of the Multicultural Veterinary Medical Association (MCVMA), and a task force member for the 2023 AAHA Mentoring Guidelines (aaha.org/mentoring).
She shares how she got to where she is—including her personal experiences with mentorship, which included sometimes hearing what she didn’t want to hear.
On her favorite parts of the 2023 AAHA Mentoring Guidelines
Melody Martinez: I think it's the advice to know yourself, whether you're the mentor or the mentee, to really do some self-reflection about what it is that you're looking for in a mentorship relationship, what it is, and why you're doing it . . . I think there are a lot of preconceived ideas about what mentorship should be.
And the reality is that mentorship should be the thing that serves the mentee the most, the thing that allows that person to grow, and supports their career trajectory or just their personal goals as well. The more you know yourself, and what you're trying to get out of this, and why you're doing it, I think the better off you're going to be finding the right support system.
On seeking mentorship at any career stage
MM: You can seek mentorship at any stage in your career, [if] there's something you've identified that you want to know more about or become better at, but you need support for that.
I think a lot of people also conflate mentorship with training, or mentorship with coaching. And those are all very distinct different things. Mentorship is really about the mentee identifying a place of growth for them.
The only people mentorship does not work for is anyone who thinks that they have nothing to learn about themselves, about their profession, about anything. The person who thinks that they are self-made, and they know everything, and they don't need to know anything else: Those are probably the people who need mentorship the most.
Mentorship is really about anyone at any stage of their journey. We often think about mentorship as only about what you want to learn as a veterinarian, or as a technician, or as an assistant—and it has to be directly related to my job or my job description—but not necessarily.
It could be related to your growth as a person that might help you in your profession. Maybe you want to improve your communication. Just generally, you're struggling with that in your personal life maybe, and so you seek a mentor to help support you grow and learn around communication in general, and that supports you in your practice.
On not doing it the mentor's way, but finding your way
MM: Mentorship is not about doing it my way or doing it the mentor's way. It's about the mentor helping the mentee figure out: What is your way? What is your way of handling that challenge or learning more about that, or learning more about yourself, or taking something to the next step in your in your career?
That's why it's important to understand that you might need mentorship or you might desire mentorship at any stage in your in your life or your career. It's really relational; it's not about checking off some boxes and saying, “Well, I did it; right?”
It’s not therapy, but it's kind of in that vein: It's focused on you growing personally and professionally. And it depends: You may seek it out at a time where you feel like you need a specific kind of support, or not.
It's not always for new grads, although it's beneficial for new grads to have mentors. I've heard a million times over from veterinarians especially, “I wish I had had a mentor because it was sink-or-swim; I was just flying by the seat of my pants; I wasn't ready after school; I had so many doubts about myself, and a mentor could have totally supported me.”
I think people undervalue and undersell themselves when they think, "I'm midway through my career, or I've made it in my career, I don't need a mentor.”
What aspect of your professional life or your personal life do you want support with, would you like to improve? It's not always about improvement, either. What do you want to learn about yourself? And how can a mentor help you do that?
On mentoring to help with “philosophical” transitions
MM: I was struggling with a moment of moral distress about something related to the workplace. And I didn't know how to handle it. It was just kind of eating away at me. But I was just like, “Should I be working in veterinary medicine? If my values are changing, should I still be here? Is this profession the right place for me if my values are shifting in this way, and I'm seeing issues that cannot be fixed overnight, won't be fixed, probably in years, within the profession? Is it time for me to go?”
Veterinary medicine is such a big part of my identity that it was really distressing. That's a transition, even thinking, “Wow, I've had a value shift,” or “I've had a different way of thinking about something.” Having someone you can talk to, who's been there or who, as you're relating your story, can see things you've missed because you might be activated, or you're so close to it.
I had a really good colleague who was not my mentor, but who helped ground me, but that would have been a really great moment to have leaned on a mentor, especially someone who already knew me really well, or who had built a relationship with me prior to that moment. It would have been really great to have someone to bounce ideas off of, or to talk to someone who could say, “Hey, it's going to be okay.”
There are so many things that mentorship could have helped me learn about myself sooner, with less activation, that took me longer to get. I now understand that transition better today. I think I wouldn't have had to struggle so much if I’d had a mentor.
Further reading and resources
Listen to the full conversation: Episode 65: “Gems from the Guidelines: Mentorship Means Asking the Right Questions”
Central Line: The AAHA Podcast
2023 AAHA Mentoring Guidelines
“Introducing the AAHA 2023 Mentoring Guidelines,” NEWStat, 6/30/23
“Mentorship: What Do Students Want?” Trends magazine, July 2023
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This episode was produced by Clear Contender LLC with generous support from CareCredit.
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.