Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who is your mentor?

Everyone has one. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we all have someone in our past or present life that we have looked to for guidance, or who have molded a part of our being in some way, both professionally and personally.

But have you ever thought about who those people are, and perhaps taken the time to thank them?

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and can change over the course of your lifetime. When you're a kid, your mentor could be your third grade teacher, your soccer coach, or your friend's mom. As you get older, it could be a professor, a guidance counselor, or even the cool older kid in school. You may not realize that these individuals are your "mentors" - at that age, who even knows what that really means? But these are the people we remember later on - the ones that shape our lives - above and beyond what our parents can do. Parents, of course, have a standing order as mentors - I know mine do.

Thinking back, I remember my mentors. In grade school, it was the 6th grade teacher who encouraged my writing. I still have her comments on my short stories - "You should be a writer when you grow up" is the one that makes me want to contact her and say, "Thanks in part to you, I did." In high school, there was the mother of a friend of mine whose house everyone always hung out at. She was the consummate stay-at-home mom. We were always welcome there, and she always had snacks. I was one of the few girls in the group we hung out with, and she, with three sons, "adopted" me and all my teenage angst as the daughter she never had.

In college, my mentor was my first boss at the advertising agency I interned at in Milwaukee. She was the one who took me under her wing, and taught me the ropes of not only advertising, but working in the professional world as well (i.e. it's not a good idea to drink as much as the client during lunch). To this day she remains a good friend.

Today, I have several mentors. Some I look to for guidance in my professional life. These are the people that I call when I need advice in my work - the ones I "follow" to see how they are taking life by the horns. The ones I try to model myself after not only because of their own success, but their attitudes and optimism as well.

Personally, I have a good friend that never bullshits me. She'll tell me if she thinks I've made a bad decision, will neutrally guide me when I have a problem, and constantly reminds me of my good choices and "how far I've come".

Reciprocally, I hope that there is someone out there that considers me their mentor. I hope that I have had a positive effect on someone's life, and that years later, they remember me as one of the people that influenced them, professionally or personally.

Take a few minutes to reflect on your mentors, past and present. If you get the chance, look them up and thank them. As I've said before, we're all in this together, and sometimes you need to let those people know the difference they have made in your life.

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