Mentors have a powerful impact on our personal development.
My first and continual mentor is my mother. She is someone who is always there for me when I need to make a difficult decision or when I am reflecting on how to better myself. I have given this title, whether declared or not, to a wide spectrum of people in my life: professors, friends, co-workers, supervisors etc. Mentors change based on what you need and where you are hoping to go. One thing is for sure, I truly believe that none of us would be the women we are without the guidance and support of our mentors.
Here are some examples of top power women who continue to give honor to the mentors that helped shape them into the women:
Dolores Huerta said the following late last year during her 85th birthday celebration alluding the lessons learned from mentor, Fred Ross:
“We have so much work to do, and especially now, as I get older, I think I don’t have many years left to do as much as I can, to try to improve conditions for people. We’re trying to organize people so they can learn how to improve their lives and their environment.”
Oprah Winfrey said the following on her show, The Oprah Winfrey Show:
“One of the defining moments of my life came in the fourth grade, the year I was Mrs. Duncan’s student. What Mrs. Duncan did for me was to help me to not be afraid of being smart. She encouraged me to read, and she often stayed after school to work with me, helping me choose books and letting me help her grade papers. For many years after that, I had one goal that I would one day become a fourth-grade teacher who would win the teacher award–because I was going to be the best teacher anyone had ever seen!”
Years later Oprah also said the following in O Magazine upon the passing of Maya Angelou, a mentor she had in a different time in her life:
“Meeting Maya on those pages was like meeting myself in full. For the first time, as a young black girl, my experience was validated. And it still is, only now I sit at Maya’s feet, beside her fireplace, hardly believing that, years after reading Caged Bird, she is my mentor and close friend”.
Sheryl Sandberg said the following when asked about her mentor Larry Summers in an interview with the Harvard Business Review:
“I think it helped tremendously. I’ve had a lot of mentors over the course of my career. Larry being one of the absolutely most important. And certainly the first. But you know, Larry offered to be my thesis adviser in college. And then he took me with him to the World Bank. And then he offered me a job at Treasury. And those opportunities are ones I wouldn’t have had without him”.
Our very own Rhonesha Byng answered the following in an interview when asked what key elements played into her success:
“I innately had a sense of purpose and direction early in life. I was lucky enough to have a circle of mentors who supported my goals and pushed me to achieve and also inspired me simply through their example. One of my mentors had a radio show and was the managing editor of a magazine, another was running an networking organization for professionals in media and entertainment…I could go on and on.”
Whether your mentor is older or younger, man or women, works in the same field as you or not, I hope that you all take the time to reach out and thank those individuals who guided you through difficult decisions and invested their time in your success.
You can check out the National Mentoring Month site for more ideas on how to honor your mentor. Happy Thank Your Mentor Day everyone!