The Importance of Mentoring
Anyone who really knows me has heard of my complete obsession with and adoration for my Mini-Me. Those who don't know me as well may ask, "what is a Mini-Me?" and "why does one need a Mini-Me"? There is no quick answer to these questions, so let me just tell you a story.
In 2012, looking for purpose and meaning in my newly 30 year old life, I decided to have lunch with a former partner from my old law firm. Having changed jobs from being a corporate litigator to an in house counsel, I felt removed from the law in an unexpected way. I asked this former colleague for some advice about ways to be involved at the local law school in the advocacy program and he offered me an opportunity to work on staff with 2nd and 3rd year students coaching them in oral advocacy competitions. While this offered me access to learn new and emerging areas of the law, it truly offered me much more. The opportunity to influence young minds.
Over the years I have had many students that I affectionately call my babies, and I have celebrated their victories in the faux courtroom, the real courtroom and in their personal lives. I have seen them succeed and fail both personally and professionally, and I feel genuine pride when I see the people they have become, feeling that maybe just maybe I have influenced some small portion of their lives.
While I am truly and equally proud of ALL of these young babies, there are two that stand out to me. Dom and Tiff. When I met these two forces of nature, something in me clicked and I felt immediately responsible for their success as lawyers but most importantly their success as young black women. Having benefited from the tutelage of many mentors in my life it was too important to me to allow these women to go through law school and life alone. I immediately imprinted on them without warning.
The creation of our relationship was a slow burn from the outset. The first time I met them I was judging them. Literally. I required that they make an argument to the faux judge (me) about a topic I cannot now remember. What I do remember is that while I gave honest critiques of the other students, I gave Dom and Tiff honesty with a side of reality. As the story goes, they swear I began my critiques of them by deadpanning, "I don't know why you are talking to me like you are sitting on the front porch" which translates to, "that was the worst argument I've ever heard." Now, this doesn't even sound like me, and sounds like something my mother would say, so either they are lying or I am my mother...neither of which I am prepared to accept.
Regardless of how the story goes, they hated me from that moment and I instantly grew two new hearts. I knew I had to return each semester to not only be a part of their journey but to just.be.there.
From that moment on, I have seen these two blossom, and I try to make sure they have everything they need, be it a place to stay, a hot meal, or just some emotional support. These two ladies have become part of my emotional fabric and I hope to have become part of theirs.
Dom and I have a particularly close relationship. She is so much like me that it's scary. She is everything I was at every age that I've known her. Her insecurities, her emotions, her general outlook on life - I just get her. And so she is my Mini-Me. She probably gets sick of me getting in her business and trying to run her life, but she will appreciate it in the long run!! As she prepares to make a shift in her professional life and as Tiff makes moves in her personal life, I've been giving much thought to mentoring and the importance of standing in the gap for people who come behind you.
Of all the things I've done in my life, being there for those two ladies has been the most important. I cannot stress enough the need for young women, and young women of color in particular, to have someone - anyone - that they can rely on as a sounding board and as someone that can give them advice about the uncertain world and how to navigate through the unique experiences that they will have.
But mentoring is not just meant for people who look like you or have similar interests. It's more about seeing a need in someone and knowing that you can meet that need. For me, it just so happens that Dom and Tiff fit a profile that are similar to my own. My own mentors, on the other hand, are as diverse as they come. Regardless of demographics let me be clear about this message: if you have the opportunity to be a mentor - do it. If you don't have one - find one.
The impact that you can have on people's lives is perhaps the greatest gift you can give. Take it from me - you will find that your life will have infinitely more meaning and be made richer by taking the chance to make someone else great.
Has mentoring played any part in your life? Sound off in the comment section below!
Featured Photo: Columbia Pictures