Being a Mentor: Not Just for Folks at the Top of the Ladder

What do you see when you picture a mentor? I realized recently that when I pictured a mentor, I pictured someone at the height of her career – someone who’d reached the top of a ladder and accomplished all her goals. I didn’t picture someone like myself, since I still have goals I want to accomplish, things I want to learn, experiences I want to have. That was my perception—until last Thursday morning at the Raleigh Women’s Leadership Conference when I realized: I can mentor. While I may not be a President or CEO, my career experience is valuable and could likely help someone at an earlier stage of her career.

Listening to the hugely successful women on the stage at the Raleigh Convention Center, including new Raleigh Chamber CEO Adrienne Cole, made me think how much I would have loved to have one of them as a manager in my earlier career days. Fortunately, I work for an amazing businesswoman, but getting to this point in my career did not come easy. I spent many tumultuous years navigating corporate America after leaving the public education classroom. I worked for a few great folks and a few not so great folks along the way. I keep in touch with a few of the influential leaders and consider some of them my mentors, although it was never anything formal.

Most recently one of these mentors told me—keep your foot in the working world but don’t miss out on your baby at home. Advice that was tailored to me and not right for everyone, but it was helpful for me to hear. At the time she said it I had no idea how I was going to manage to follow her advice but those words stuck with me as I made my recent career move. In February I moved from a global publishing company to Reify Media. Flexible work hours are the norm and family is important at Reify Media. The look of envy in people’s eyes when I tell them about my new role is the affirmation that I made the right move when I followed my mentor’s advice.

Now what?

In one morning spent at the Women’s Leadership Conference, I’ve realized I have the right stuff to help younger women in their careers. For years, I’ve had friends on Facebook and Linkedin reach out to ask how I made the leap from the elementary classroom to sales. I always love telling people my story and encouraging them to take the next step in their lives. I never thought of it as mentoring but it is. I was using my experiences to help guide the paths of those following me in their careers. The break-out sessions at the Women’s Leadership Conference further affirmed I have experiences to share. A fire has been lit inside of me to reach out and become a mentor in the Raleigh community.

As I was passionately telling Reify Media’s President (and my boss) about the conference and about my mentoring epiphany, she told me about the Mentoring Monday event hosted by Bizwomen coming up on April 3. This will be my next step in this mentoring journey. I plan to attend and hopefully connect with a mentor for myself. I plan to pick their brain about business but I also want to learn about how they got involved in being a mentor, so that I can transition to not only having a mentor but also to being a mentor for others.

My final thought on this is that Raleigh is lucky to have such an amazing group of female leaders. The crowd of around 600 at the Raleigh Women’s Leadership Conference affirmed it. Having a mentor event solely focused on women in business affirms it. I am excited to grow as a mentor and mentee. Stayed tuned to hear about my experience as I join in on Mentoring Monday on April 3, 2017 on NCSU’s campus.

This article was also published on LinkedIn as https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/being-mentor-just-folks-top-ladder-kathryn-dunn.