Mentor. According to the dictionary, a mentor is a wise and trusted counselor and teacher, someone who provides guidance and direction to another.
Like many people who have had the good fortune of being mentored throughout their professional journeys, I was compelled to participate in WISE Within by my own positive experiences and a desire to give back through sharing the knowledge I had gained along the way. But long before I was a WISE Within mentor, I was a mentee and still consider myself one today.
In the very beginning of my professional life, I wasn't even conscious of the formal term "mentor;" it wasn't until the second stage of my career that I realized what was actually happening.
I entered the professional world through an entry-level position in the corporate recruiting and human resources department at Aetna. During my time at the company, there were several women who reached out to me with support. Tiane Mitchell was one of them.
Tiane served as a mentor to me in a very informal way, the two of us bonding over shared experiences. She helped me understand the company, how it worked and how my contributions fit into the bigger picture. From that job on, I was fortunate enough to have not only mentors, but also supervisors and managers who sponsored me for professional development opportunities as well as advancement and job opportunities.
Over time — and probably through someone actually telling me — I learned that you are your own responsibility. Your career is no one else's responsibility, and how you take advice and use it and how you then reach out for advice is on you. I began to grow and become more mature about taking charge of what I wanted to do.
As I moved on to other jobs and eventually in to the sports industry, I actively sought out that advice from those around me. I would ask questions about challenges I was facing, but I didn't always ask them about the challenges they were having or the successes they had found and how they got to where they were. Another lesson learned.
It should never be just about us, our contribution. When we believe that it is all about us, that is when we make our biggest mistake. We do not work in a vacuum. If I only focused on marketing, I wouldn't truly understand the importance of collaborating with other disciplines within the organization. My work depends on what legal, finance, human resources and other groups are doing to support that effort. It is those things that we tend to overlook that make the difference.
My advice is to take no one for granted. Everyone — the person within your organization, the person outside your organization, even the person in another industry — can provide you with the insight to make better and more informed decisions and reach a new level of success.
Being a mentor is about providing guidance; being a mentee is about taking responsibility for and owning that guidance.