I remember my first interaction with Jackie*. A couple years ago, she found me on Twitter, did a little research (or at least that’s what she calls it) on me, and invited me out to lunch. I was floored to be invited out to lunch by someone who had found me online and thought my writing to be interesting. We met a local sandwich shop. I remember feeling at excited and frightened at the same time. She’s a powerhouse, the ace card. Jackie's the kind of person you want in your court, backing you up.
Since that first lunch two years ago, Jackie's been there to support me, challenge me, and call me out on my shit, which I need because I can be a bit stubborn. Jackie is the person to be honest with me if my work is not living to my fullest ability. She is the person who I call first when I accomplish something great or overcome a great feat. Jackie is my mentor.
It took me a while to understand what having a mentor looks like. For a while I just thought it was someone to call when I needed advice or if I just needed to vent. While Jackie and I have those conversations, our mentor/mentee relationship is bit more engaged than that. She asks me questions like if the work I'm doing is something I'm doing for status or if I actually care about it. She supports me encouraging me to stick to my guns and believe in my skills. Having Jackie as a mentor has significantly improved my ability to be honest with myself and always work just a bit harder than everyone.
Along with asking me the tough questions, Jackie keeps me accountable to my beliefs and values. Even if we don't agree on something, we respect one another's goals and help in a way that makes sense to the other person.
Now, I have other individuals that help the same way Jackie does and I am better person of them. I believe strongly in the power of the mentor/mentee relationship. When conducted properly, both individuals benefit and grow. Both individuals are challenged and encouraged to be their very best selves. I sometimes try to imagine where I would be today without the accountability and lessons I've learned from my mentors. But it's too closed-minded of a place for me to imagine for long.
If you have someone in your life you believe to be a good mentor, ask him/her out to coffee. Get to know him/her. Pick his/her brain. Be honest with where you are in life and what you need help with. Chances are, if he/she is a good mentor, he/she will be more than happy to help.
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*Name changed to respect individual's privacy.