Whether we know it or not, every one of us has had a mentor in our lives. Some of them may have been formally set-up through a pairing process, others you may have reached out and intentionally developed yourself, while others may simply have happened naturally over time. Whomever they are and however they developed, mentors are the people we turn to when we have the most pressing questions on our minds and are facing the most challenging of situations.
I have had many mentors in my life. These are people I have turned to for questions as I’ve done my own professional and personal soul-searching. I’ve actually had all three of the kinds described above and each have assisted me through very different times in my life.
Right now I consider myself having four mentors. Two (Chris Roby and Dr. Bryan Coker) are former supervisors who in each of their own ways are role models for the type of professional and person (both are amazing at life balance) I would like to be . Sometimes I turn to them directly for advice while other times I simply reflect on my situation and ask what they would do. Another (Dr. Lucy Croft) is with me at my current job and is someone whom I have respected in the field for many years and am now proud to say I work with and learn from everyday now. All of them are people I gain inspiration from on a regular basis.
My fourth has been a very interesting journey. J. Scott Derrick and I were originally paired up at an NACA Conference in 2001 through a formal mentorship program joining new professionals and “seasoned” professionals (I’m sure he hates that term). The funny thing is I was expecting some great relationship to develop instantaneously and to be able to pick his brain every time I needed. However, although we did speak a little at that first conference, nothing close to a mentorship developed for quite some time. This was OK because at the time, I really didn’t need his advice in my professional life, I had other mentors at the time (I just didn’t realize it until later that’s what they were).
Over the years we became friends mostly through working together on the conference planning teams. Then just a few years ago as I began to be challenged more than ever before as a professional, I turned to him person and said “OK, I now need that mentor role we were supposed to have a long time ago.” The advice I received that day was invaluable and motivating. I went on to tackle my job with a whole new perspective. Since that day I have continued to turn to J. Scott on multiple occasions for professional advice in my most challenging of times. And he has consistently helped me to stay on the right path as a professional who leads with integrity and tries to the right thing.
Recently I have been paired up with a mentee through the Twitter #saGrow program that Ed Cabellon initiated. My mentee Marlena Hensarling is a wonderful new professional who I know is going to go on to accomplish great things just through our first few months of conversations. She is a very thought-provoking, inquisitive and caring individual who has also given me new perspectives through our conversations.
As the “seasoned” professional (I’m not too fond of it either, it just screams “old”), I have committed myself to be available to her as much as she needs and to help support her professional pursuits. She is at a point where she really needs someone unbiased and with more experience to turn to and I am one of those people right now. Down the road times may change and she may not turn to me as much and that is OK, mentors are meant to come and go as we need them and as they need us.
So to all of you who are mentees and mentors, never stop being available, supportive, challenging and a friend. You never know when you are being a mentor to someone or when you may need them.
Who do you consider your mentors? How have they helped you both personally and professionally? Do you try to emulate them or simply look for their advice. Have you challenged yourself to become a mentor?