As the oldest sibling from a home in which neither parent attended college, and neither was active in a workplace community, I was constantly searching for professional mentors. As an early undergraduate student, I remember hearing one of our college administrators speak at an on-campus workshop. This woman was well-spoken, confident, and knowledgeable in her field. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to be like her.” After the workshop concluded, I introduced myself and asked if I could set up a meeting with her. I wanted her help on drafting my resume, as well as practice my interviewing skills. She enthusiastically agreed.
As the school year progressed, our meetings became more frequent, and I felt my confidence growing. I learned that she held a few board positions within the community. One day, she invited me to attend a Saturday career fair in the city, held for local high school students. She was there to help these students with their college essays. I agreed to join her, and that is where my passion for community involvement began.
Fast forwarding to my upperclassmen years, I was involved in several extra-curricular activities on campus. One afternoon, as I was leaving my advisors office, I ran across an underclassman in the hallway, looking at her curriculum planner in distress. She explained to me that she was completely lost on which courses to take, and still felt concerned about it after meeting with her advisor. Since I had already been through most of our major’s curriculum, I asked if she would like to sit with me and go over her options. I could offer her insights on each course, sharing my specific experiences and overall perspectives. From that moment going forward, I became her go-to individual for guidance and advice in choosing her courses, research paper topics, and internships.
There will be many times while striving for your professional and educational goals where you will fall short. You may fail, succeed, and fail again. I certainly have. But having mentors to guide, encourage and inspire me has made a world of difference. Becoming a mentor myself built upon the confidence I had gained. As I was inspiring others, I continued to inspire myself, and it pushed me closer to reaching my goals.
In my early 30s, as a full-time working professional, with a Master’s degree, a part-time teaching position at a university and volunteer/member positions with several organizations in my community, I can confidently say that I would not have made it this far without the support of my mentors, as well as the opportunity to act as a mentor. My challenge to you is this: If you see a younger professional or student in need of guidance, reach out and take them under your wing. You may just change someone’s life, and in the process, change your own.