The Power of Having a Mentor
“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained.” – Shawn Hitchcock, Professor at Illinois State University. This quote hits close to home when I consider what a mentor should be.
I grew up in a working-class, Latino community on the northwest side of Chicago and I am a protégé of the Chicago Public School system. As an inner-city youth, I can attest to the lack of resources available to me. Both of my parents migrated from Mexico. They could only provide me with so much. They themselves were trying to navigate a different country and needed their own support. While growing up, if I needed any assistance with homework, I knew my parents couldn’t help me, so I had to look for guidance outside of my home. Often, I needed to go to my teachers and tutors at school. Even though the word “mentor” was never introduced to me, I had mentors early in my life. They believed in me and encouraged me to go to pursue a higher education and earn my college degree. Once I was in college, I was in a different ball game. I lacked confidence and wasn’t prepared for the responsibilities that came with being a college student. It was then when I realized I was a minority. There weren’t as many Latinos on campus as I would have wanted.
As a younger Latina woman, I was unsure of what I wanted to pursue as a career. There were very few examples of professional Latinas in my life. This resulted in me switching my major three times throughout my college career. Finally, when I became a junior in college, I met my first mentor. A petite Puerto Rican woman named Nancye F. Rivera, who was a Director at a large marketing agency in Downtown Chicago. This woman took me in as her Intern. Nancye knew I had no prior experience in marketing. All I knew is that I needed experience in anything. She graciously showed me the ropes but was stern to correct me when I was wrong. I appreciated the opportunity so much that I allowed Nancye to have a voice in my life. Once I ended my Internship with her, we both wanted to continue our mentee and mentor relationship, and we did. God doesn’t pair people by mistake. This professional Latina taught me things that not only influenced my career but my overall life. We still are very good friends. Our relationship has evolved and strengthened over the years so much that I value her as a spiritual mother than just a mentor.
Since college, I’ve learned that I am very particular with who I choose to mentor me. Notice I said “I” choose. Nancye set the bar high for others. Before I allow a mentor to work with me, I analyze their life. I get to know more about them before I get into a mentor-mentee relationship, just like any other relationship. The first question I ask myself is, what do they have that I want? For example, Nancy was a professional and polished woman. Additionally, she is very spiritual. I desired those skills and abilities tremendously. You can figure this out through casual conversations. Invite the person out for lunch or go to business events together. If you see something that tugs at you the wrong way, then that person might not be the right mentor for you. Although, that person can still be a good friend or a cheerleader in your life. Only time will tell.
The second question I ask myself is, am I willing to be mentored by this person? In other words, are you ready to invest time? Now, I have had the privilege to have multiple mentors throughout the years. Some of those relationships have evolved into something better or some have ended. It’s okay for the relationship to end because things change and people change. If we aren’t changing, we aren’t growing. This mentor-mentee relationship takes commitment. You will need to plan to spend time together. Just saying that a person is your mentor doesn’t make them your mentor, you need to commit. Plan to meet outside of work, it can be weekly, monthly, quarterly. Since mentorship is a two-way street, both mentor and mentee must want to invest time into the relationship, plus enjoy each other’s company. If once you are in a mentor and mentee relationship and something doesn’t feel right, then you are probably right! Stick to your gut, it's always right. Just recently, I met a young Latina and she mentioned to me that she felt that her mentor was “taking advantage of her.” Right away both my mentor and I told her to immediately rethink the relationship. A couple of months later, she reported back to us that her intuition was right. Now she is slowly moving towards an exit strategy for that relationship. However, if you want to preserve a relationship to not burn any bridges, then just start setting healthy boundaries. You ask how do I set healthy boundaries? Well, just say no. Begin to limit your engagement, this will slowly end whatever rituals or habits you have together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Sanchez is a Bi-Cultural Millennial Latina with an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as, President and Founder of The Culture Impact. The Culture Impact provides social media management and development for companies and organizations, as well as, education and training in the areas of social media. Early on in her career she owned and operated another business in West Humboldt Park from 2009 to 2011. She attained a BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is also a Financial Coach from NeighbordWorks Training Institute. Mrs. Sanchez was privileged to work with multiple marketing agencies and not-for-profits, which gave her the knowledge to help organizations and institutions meet their goals through different marketing strategies. Mrs. Sanchez resides in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and Doberman Pinscher named "Ruby." To contact Jennifer email firstname.lastname@example.org.