by Sarah Blaskovich
My mentor and I were a strange pairing at first. As a former boss (and now a close personal and professional friend), she isn’t anything like me. My mentor is stern when it comes to managing people. I manage by making friends. She is an incredible teacher—tolerant and understanding, and willing to stick with it until her pupil gets it right. I’m impatient. We were an awkward pairing, and I tiptoed around her in the beginning of our business relationship to see if she approved. She made her mark without giving a damn.
Through it, we had one very insignificant thing in common: We were the same age. Here she was, a young, highly skilled, confident journalist trying to convince her subordinates that age is just a number. And I could level with that. We were both managers and had staffs of a dozen or so who were older than us—some by 40 years or more. It was time to prove that we both knew what we were doing.
My mentor and I grew together through that job. She jump-started my belief that I could be a strong leader on a professional level. She showed me my talents were useful in any business setting, and that I didn’t need to have the same personality as her in order for both of us to be exceptional at our jobs.
And when it came time for her to leave, she confided in me that she’d located a position elsewhere. I confided in her that, coincidentally, so had I. I believe that things happen for a reason, and she was meant to be my boss. And when she left, I was meant to go out and be my own great leader.
Sometimes, Mentors Find You
by Laura Coppedge
Looking back, I realize that I was in more disarray than I realized. I went through a breakup, got a new job and moved to a new town within a matter of months. I wasn’t focused or on task, but thankfully my new boss, Mandy Jordan, recognized my potential.
Months after I started work at my new job, the dot-com bust occurred and there was a “restructuring” in my department. The two other people at my level were laid off because their new job descriptions didn’t correspond with their skill sets. I truly believe my boss went to bat for me and fought to keep me on, though she never would have told me such.
Over the next few years I did my best to learn what she would teach me. She was highly respected by her peers, her employees and her bosses. Just watching how she related to people, how she put them at ease and how she made decisions was a learning experience in itself. She was loyal, honest and had heaping mounds of integrity. You never heard anyone say an unkind word about her. And she would roll her eyes and shove off all this praise.
She single-handedly helped me grow to the next level of my career. I was already pretty good at doing tasks I was given and doing them correctly, but I hadn’t moved beyond those basic skills to making my own decisions or managing large projects on my own. She gave me the opportunity, the kind criticism and the confidence to take on more than I thought I could handle. I made some mistakes and had some successes, but I was constantly learning along the way.
I wouldn’t be managing this Web site now if it weren’t for the many tips, hints and solid advice she gave me during the years I worked for her. Thank you, Mandy. I hope everyone can find a boss and mentor half as good as mine.
My Mentor, My Dad
by Amy Anderson
My father didn’t finish college. He was a farmer, like his father, until he discovered that he could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves. He had a gift for sales. So he became what people now call a serial entrepreneur. That man could jump-start a business like, well, nobody’s business. He always had ideas for how to make the impossible happen. I’m not sure he believed in the word.
Especially not when it came to me. My dad was one of my mentors, and his words made a deep impression on the woman I am today. Here are a few of my favorites:
My dad told me that if I wanted to do something, I could do it. No matter what.
“When you stop messing around, you’ll figure out that you are going to do great things,” he said to me as I switched college majors for the third time. He had told me from the time I could sit still long enough to listen that he believed I was extraordinary, that I was talented and smart and that I could do anything I wanted. “Anything,” he’d say again, looking me right in the eye to be sure I heard.
My dad told me that the people I surrounded myself with influenced the person I would become.
One day, while sitting across from me chatting about life, he said, “You’re hanging out with losers.” I was offended. I made excuses for my friends, for the reasons they were important to me. He said, “That’s all fine and you should care about people. But if you want to do something with your life, if you want to make your dreams come true, you’ve got to stop hanging out with people who don’t have any dreams.” This one still stings a little. But I know today that he was right.
My dad told me that failure is a doorway to a new opportunity.
I watched my father build more than one business before he passed away in 2006. When I was in junior high, his business partner betrayed him, and the company he had spent years building went under. It was a crushing blow to my dad both financially and emotionally. A few months later, he was starting another business. I can still see him, smiling and pumping his fist in the air as he said: “We’re going to show ‘em, Amy!”
Well, he certainly showed me a thing or two.
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