Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Helping Hand*

The following was originally posted on Oct. 14, 2008. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.

A while back, I was talking to a friend of mine about mentoring. We agreed that, when done right, mentorship is a powerful thing. We were both able to point to at least a couple of women in our lives who seemed to enter at the right time and nudged us along in our development. They continue to steer us in the right direction without feeling pressure to give the "right" kind of advice, and without us feeling that they're telling us what to do.

Then our conversation turned to the other side of mentorship. Mentorship programs can sometimes feel forced: you are given one person who is supposed to be your guide, but sometimes has no connection to you. They don't understand who you are. Maybe they can give insight from their own experiences, but there can be an impersonal quality that pretty much defeats the purpose of having a mentor in the first place.

I bring all of this up because I've been thinking about my own unofficial role as a mentor in other people's lives. The idea of joining an official mentorship program has always seemed strange to me, but I do want to help other women fulfill their potential.

Organic or not, having a mentor must be better than having no direction at all. Being a woman, especially a woman of color, is challenging no matter what field you want to go in. And, of course, there's the personal connection. Even if a relationship feels somewhat forced, at least there's one there, right? At least there is somebody out there who actually cares about you and the decisions you make.

I feel that it's my responsibility to lend a helping hand, because there was somebody there to help me. But how do I go about doing that? How many of you can say you've had a mentor in your life? How many of you have been a mentor to somebody else? Was it part of a program or did it develop naturally? I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts.

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