As humans, we’re a funny collection of emotions. There are days we feel unstoppable. Other times we question our abilities and doubt our worth. It has little to do with our true talents, our age or our professional accomplishments. The power of mentoring is that it is fueled by the entire spectrum of self-evaluation and can prove an incredible learning tool for both mentor and mentee.
I know this from personal experience, so I’m writing to encourage everyone to establish a new mentoring relationship or rekindle one that served you well in the past. As an endorsement to my message, January is National Mentoring Month too, which I believe is a pretty good indicator that I’m not alone in my conviction that mentoring can change lives – and not just the lives of those being mentored.
As part of a leadership training program MJ sponsored me for a few years ago, I volunteered for a local community center in Indianapolis. In the mornings, we learned about generational poverty, and then in the afternoons, we worked on building homes. Witnessing poverty first-hand and seeing the potential ways I could impact change motivated me to do more in my own community. Both my husband, Andy, and I are incredibly fortunate, with supportive families and careers we enjoy. We agreed that we could offer the kind of guidance many children lack in their lives and decided to pursue an opportunity through Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Following a lengthy matching process, we each found our “Little.”
My Little is a true gem—I have so much fun going on adventures and experiencing new things with her. She mentioned early on in our pairing that she wanted to try new, “fancy” foods, and one of my favorite memories is taking her to my favorite Korean restaurant, which she loved! Each of our outings seem somewhat simple, and the mentoring isn’t formal, yet we’ve each discovered so much during little exchanges between moments of activity. It’s incredibly powerful to see the world from a different perspective, and I can tell you that this experience has transformed both of us. Although the pandemic threw a wrench into our scheduled outings recently, we still connect virtually. She’s even become a young author, and every time we talk, she reads new chapters of the book she’s writing for school.
I also have a professional advising role through MJ Connect, our formal mentorship program. Open to everyone—from insurance industry novices to career veterans—the program was officially launched in 2018, which is when I first joined. Like my Big Brother Big Sister experience, I’ve discovered that I learn as much from my mentee as I think she learns from me. The goal with every MJ Connect partnership is a years-long connection, with honest discussion and a confidential relationship that can help each participant navigate the limitless challenges we all face in our careers.
And remember, it’s not about finding someone on the exact same path. In fact, what makes you different from your mentoring partner may prove most beneficial. Imagine what a young IT savvy professional can learn from an old-school sales expert and vice versa. Probably more than one IT guy can teach another IT guy, because you’ll learn the most from perspectives, frustrations, innovation and ideas percolating in other areas of your industry. In the end, all that’s really needed for a successful mentoring relationship is finding a connection. From there, the rest is easy.
If you’ve ever doubted your own capacity to be a mentor or questioned the value of being a mentee, please know that you have a completely unique skill set and life story that can literally change the trajectory of someone else’s life in very positive ways.
Someone out there is waiting—it’s time to find your match.