“The right mentor can help you get ahead” according to the Boston Globe.
An article in Forbes headlines “To build a great company, start with great mentors.“
And the wrong or no mentor? A recipe for more career detours or a life in the slower lane.
I got a chance last weekend at my alma mater Willamette University’s terrifically done Alumni Weekend to spend time with one of my college mentors, Susan Leeson.
I met Sue when she was fresh out of grad school from earning her PhD at Claremont, just a very few years after she had graduated from Willamette.
Short on years and experience, Sue was (and is) long on EQ (and IQ) and advising smarts. While mentoring can be trained and developed in people, Sue had clearly done coursework on her own time for all of her life.
After I’d nodded off at one 1 PM Friday 12-person seminar – a class I’d asked to sit in – she observed that I must have a lot going on and asked how I was doing.
After turning in some work that was OK but not great, Sue noted “You can do better” and then talked about ways to meet a bar I’d set myself.
Mentoring is a little like dating – there is no formula for finding a great mentor. And Sue has that touch to nudge and care, prod and nurture.
Post Willamette we lost touch, though I continued to follow Sue’s career which led to her going to law school to get a JD, teach law school, serve on the Oregon Court of Appeals and later on the state of Oregon Supreme Court. She now teaches and works as a (much sought-after) mediator; it was sweet to feel that same strong connection we had 40 years ago when we say each other last week at Alumni Weekend.
The Forbes article mentioned above has a very helpful list of things to do – and things to don’t – when identifying and working with mentors.
And when you’re lucky enough to find people like Sue Leeson, cherish them. They are as precious as rare jewels, and when it comes to your career, more valuable.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.
Picture: Susan Leeson – James Madison University.