Every noteworthy person who goes down in history all have at least one thing in common. They all have or had someone who's influenced them. Someone who has poured into them, helped them hone their craft, or saw the potential in them that they may not have seen in themselves. Where would music be if Andre Harrell never gave Diddy a chance? We may have never known the R&B gold that is Toni Braxton if Babyface hadn't taken an interest in her. This same sentiment stands for career women. I don't know where I'd be if I didn't have a network of mentors and cheerleaders rooting for me.
My very first official mentor, Lesley Horton, was actually assigned to mentor a friend of mine, but I knew that she was somebody that I needed to be around. I knew that Lesley had a lot of knowledge and insight to offer regarding the law field, and because I wanted to be a lawyer, I quickly formed a relationship with her that has endured for almost four years. Even though I do not want to be a lawyer anymore, I know that I can still go to her for advice personally, professionally and as somebody to sound off to. I know that she supports my dreams and is willing to help in any way possible.
When I figured out that I wanted to go into the entertainment industry, I was lucky to find someone who was not only knowledgeable, but so willing to mentor me, Johanna Salazar (YWSE-Miami, Chapter Co-Founder). We have known each other for less than a year, but she has already been instrumental in the steps I've taken to break into the media world. When I met Johanna, I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I had no clue how to do it or how to demonstrate that I'd be good at it. How will people know that I have great written communication skills? What will signal to future employers that I can make it, if they would just give me the chance? Johanna knew what to do and helped me strategize. Since she has taken me under her wing, I have done things that I never thought I would do. Blogging? Who would have thought?
My very first supervisor, Nicole McCauley is a woman whose life is one that I fashion my own after. Her transparency, leadership and strength reminds me often of the kind of woman that I hope to be, and the kind of impact I want to make on other young women. She never shied away from letting me know how valuable my skills are. She encouraged me to chase after new and exciting opportunities, and one day I hope that she will look back and be proud of who I’ve become.
Before I had professional mentors, I had many teachers who have helped me realize my own potential. They have all given me life lessons that have helped to shape who I am. One thing that all of my mentors have in common are that they have all been women, and I would not have it any other way. Each woman who has made an impact in my life was somebody who could relate to me in more ways than one. My background as a low-income, first generation American born female is not necessarily a common plight in the corporate world. Had I not had these women around me, it's questionable if I would have become the kind of woman that I aim to be. I’ve seen hard work all around me. My parents and older siblings have always exemplified what it looks like to work hard, but I have never seen what it looks like to work hard to achieve a career that one wants and enjoys. This is just one of the privileges that these women have afforded me. I also don't think I would have made the connection with a man the way I have connected to these women. There are many barriers in the corporate world that men have not had to overcome. Many are aware that they exist, but few ever witness them up close. Having women mentors has given me a panel of professionals to turn to for advice on how to handle a situation that I may be facing just because I am a woman. It's safe to say they have all gotten through to my heart, and I through to theirs. I have reminded them that there are still young women hungry for success, and willing to work for it. They have been humbled by my gratitude to them, and inspired by my achievements that probably would not have been possible without their guidance.
I say all of this to speak to the importance of women mentors. The mark of a leader is always measured by who is following you. True leaders should be raising up the next generation of lawyers, doctors, media specialists, CEOs, educators and much more. We are defined by the legacy that we leave behind. Are you really a leader if there is nobody prepared to step up after you?
It's easy for us to think about how regular we are, but to someone coming up behind you, your experiences and accomplishments seem extraordinary. You are living their dream. I encourage you to be more than a professional: be a mentor, be more than a woman- be someone's catalyst for change. Help someone realize that dreams are real. Remind someone that you believe in them, their potential, and that you're proud of them. These are the votes of confidence from mentors that we mentees carry in our hearts forever. You have no idea how much it means.
*A special thanks to Matthew Orama for editing this article.
Photo Credit: Google Images
Contact Chyann Tull: email@example.com
Follow YWSE on Twitter: @YWSE_hq
Follow Johanna Salazar on Twitter: @_JohannaSalazar
For more about YWSE please visit: http://www.ywse.org/
ABOUT Young Women Social Entrepreneurs (YWSE):
Young women social entrepreneurs have vision and ambition, but are challenged by lack of support from mentors and peers, lack of access to resources, and lack of training in the skills necessary to manage high impact projects and organizations. YWSE provides an environment in which young women social entrepreneurs’ visions and goals areaffirmed, supported, promoted, and propelled.
YWSE is a national organization with chapters in San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and Washington, DC. YWSE was created and is administered by the women it serves.
YWSE serves women with a socially conscious agenda who are founders and leaders within businesses, non-profits, and government organizations. We use 'young' to describe our target audience of women who are 'young' in their ventures – professionals in development stages of any aspect of their entrepreneurial careers – i.e. everyone is welcome! Hundreds of women are currently participating in the network.
- To bring women to the highest positions of leadership in business, government, and social and environmental work.
- To promote young women social entrepreneurs by providing training and development, access to resources, networking opportunities, and general support for our members.
Our Core Values - Principles that Guide our Work
- Desire and passion lead our decisions and roles.
- We practice full authenticity and honesty with one another and ourselves.
- We listen deeply.
- We value and enjoy the process as well as the product.
- We intend our YWSE experience to serve us every step of the way.
- We are accountable and responsible for our contributions, strengths, and weaknesses as individuals.
- We work in collaboration and consensus, valuing each woman's wisdom.
- We act with integrity, aligning this work with our deepest values.
- We practice intimacy, sisterhood, and respect to stay connected and effective as a team.
- We act for the good of the whole (including ourselves, the Board, YWSE's membership, and the world).
- We trust in one another and ourselves, and in the synergy of opportunities and challenges that arise for us as an organization.
- We believe in the abundance of resources, time, and opportunities.
- We bring levity to our work and have fun!