It’s not an uncommon scenario — people, motivated to pay it forward after being on the receiving end of a wonderful mentoring experience, becoming mentors themselves. For me, that was not the case. Quite honestly, I’ve never really had a mentor.
I’ve worked for a variety of people over the course of my career and have had the unfortunate circumstance of working for somebody who really did not do a good job of making me feel like I was good at my job, and I knew I was doing good work. I’ve heard other people share similar experiences, and so I became a mentor because I wanted to give women an opportunity to have a female mentor who was supportive and encouraging, someone who was going to challenge them in a kind way.
Over the years, I’ve had situations arise in my professional life that I wasn’t sure how to handle, and I really wish I had had that one person whom I could call and ask, “Am I crazy? What is going on?” Or someone I could go to for advice on that upcoming interview or salary negotiation. There were many times when I really wish I had that somebody to talk to and I just didn’t, so I struggled along. You make your way, but having a sounding board would have been great.
To me, a mentor is somebody you share an open relationship with and can approach not even just on the professional aspects of life, but perhaps the personal ones as well. A mentor is somebody who is going to be honest with you and help you discover a different perspective on the issues you’re facing. As a mentor, I really look at myself as a coach: How do I give somebody the resources to do what they’re doing better or differently?
Mentors are also advocates. Knowing that you’ve got somebody behind you who is cheering you on is reassuring, and having a mentor who is willing to help open doors is probably the biggest advocacy there is — I believe in this person. I am going to introduce them to three people that I think can help them further their career. That is huge.
Mentoring has been an amazingly rewarding experience for me. Seeing the people I have worked with through WISE Within and in my workplace succeed and do well in their careers is the greatest gratification. It’s enough to keep me mentoring and enough for me to know the world needs more mentors. No one should have to go it alone.