Pay it forward.
Some may read that line and immediately think of the 2000 movie of the same name (which was adapted from a book). The movie features such A-list actors as Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and a young, post-Sixth Sense Haley Joel Osment. This blog is NOT a long, belated critique of a marginally successful movie. Instead, this is a commentary on a philosophy I have long embraced for most of my career.
In short, the movie’s plot revolves around the idea that we can change the world for the better if we each take responsibility for our actions and do our part. If I extend some level of good will to you, then you will do the same to someone else and so on and so on. It’s an interesting concept … and yet so very true. We often wonder, "Can I really make a difference?" The answer is yes.
I have been involved with some level of mentoring for almost 20 years. It started with me being a part of my alma mater’s minority mentorship program and has expanded to cover professional and life mentoring/counseling in both organized and personal environments. I’ve always believed in the responsibility of sharing my experiences, providing helpful guidance or simply serving as a resource. I often think back to my younger years when I proactively sought the help from those who were in positions I hoped to eventually achieve one day. There were people along the way who either provided direction or simply provided motivation as I attempted to navigate my way through my academic and professional life. Even the smallest gesture was helpful. I never took that for granted, and I committed myself to returning the favor when the opportunity to properly do so arrived.
Though it is positioned as a resource for the mentee, I believe most mentors will say that they find the experience personally rewarding as well. Mentoring helps us remember the little things we may have forgotten. It brings us back to why we first decided to do whatever it is that we do. Mentoring keeps us dialed into an ever-changing world and industry. Mentoring also allows us to directly evaluate and coach a young professional who could be a resource for others in the future. In every way, mentoring is critical to the growth and development of our industry.
The WISE Within program has been particularly rewarding for me. Beyond an opportunity to work with and meet many talented people, it has introduced me to one of the most driven and committed mentees I have ever mentored. She has been a joy to advise and someone who I know has an extremely successful career ahead of her.
I believe it is the responsibility of every mentor and mentee to “pay it forward.” If you’ve had the benefit of assistance, guidance or insight from someone who otherwise would not be required to provide it, I think it is your responsibility to extend that good will to others. This expectation is not limited to the senior/entry-level dynamic in the professional environment. You can provide this support to students, family members, friends or anyone who needs to know they can make a difference. Your efforts may change someone’s life and, in turn, our industry. Don’t wait — start today!