There I was a 12 year old, 86 pound, baggy jean wearing tom-boy Latina arriving to the first day of sixth grade and in walks a tall, blonde, bright blue eyed woman who would be my teacher. I had heard stories of her, she was said to be strict and tough, almost authoritarian like. She was the teacher that other teachers would send their troubled students to.
If I’m being completely honest, during the summer leading into my sixth grade I had my parents petition to have me assigned to a new teacher but that didn’t work. So there I was dreading my first day of sixth grade with a dictator who would serve as my teacher. I sat there day after day waiting for the dictator to come out, but it didn’t happen. Instead what I found was a woman who deeply cared for her students, someone that inspired 12 year old punk kids to want to learn. Yes, she was strict but after all being strict with 12 year old kids is needed.
Here I am 18 years later (no more baggy pants) and I still have a relationship with her, she has come to serve as my mentor. She is the person that I call to discuss a new opportunity at work, the ups the downs of my life, the room for opportunity and growth, and the person that reads, corrects and makes suggestions to my grad school entrance paper. She is a person that leads by example and the person whose voice I hear in my head when I’m looking for answers.
A mentor is often defined as an experienced and trusted advisor. However, I would like to add to this definition, a mentor is someone that walks hand in hand with you, guides you, encourages you and picks you up when you need it. They serve as your advocate, and as your champion.
It is no surprise that women face additional challenges moving up the ladder, therefore mentorship is key to both retaining and developing women as executives and in leadership positions. According to leanin.org, mentorship is a key driver of success, yet women can have a harder time finding mentors, especially ones with influence. Women who are mentored by women feel supported and are more likely to report being satisfied with their career. In addition a female mentor can better relate to the challenges and aspirations of other females by sharing her own experiences, failures and successes.
Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on individuals in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Further, mentored employees advance faster, are more productive and are better accustomed to navigating a company’s culture.
Mentorship is something that benefits everyone. Mentees benefit in several ways, as mentors can provide a welcome point during a time of change, provide guidance on areas you are unfamiliar with, and can serve as an independent voice, improves self confidence and offers professional development. Whereas mentors, may gain a new perspective from a younger generation, become re-energized in their career, and may lead to an increase of self confidence and job satisfaction.
Today, I encourage you to reach out someone and offer to walk with them, to be their advocate and be their champion, to be the mentor you wish you had.