Having worked at various small firms with and without female role models, I have experienced firsthand what a difference mentors can make. One cannot overestimate how amazing it is to have someone who just "gets it" and can be a beacon to guide you in a direction due north.
I applied to WISE Within to meet that beacon — a senior woman who could relate to where I was professionally, what my job entailed and my desire to take my career to the next level. While I was hopeful that this person might help me find clarity in the professional challenges I faced, I didn't realize when I was accepted into the program that I would also be getting a cheerleader in my corner, something that occurred more naturally and easily than I could have ever imagined.
I felt an immediate connection with my mentor at the WISE Within kickoff session, and we hadn't even been paired together yet. She sat across from me, and I sensed from her a level of focus and happiness, yet she couldn't quite sit still, similar to how I often feel. Sure enough, when the mentor-mentee pairings were announced, she was introduced as my mentor.
Initially, our relationship involved a lot of time and planning, mainly from my end as the mentee. I went into every one of our monthly lunches prepared with a topic to discuss. Sometimes, it was strategies on navigating internal politics; other times, it was how to write a self-assessment of my contributions for the year.
Inevitably, after discussing the topic at hand, we always ended up off the beaten path, talking about weekend plans, college sports, industry happenings or travel destinations. Eventually, we met for lunch or spoke on the phone with no mentor-mentee agenda necessary.
Today, she is one of my biggest supporters. Whether it is negotiating for more compensation, completing a project or training for a marathon, she is there with a dose of advice, a heaping spoonful of encouragement and a "how can I help you" attitude.
I never expected to gain this amazing experience, and I'm so glad to have found a mentor and friend that has such a positive impact on my life. I hope to pay this experience forward someday as I advance in my career. I hope to be just the cheerleader a young professional needs.