It pays to be mentored

After my Skype call with Manuel today, I found renewed energy and perspective to see myself through unemployment.

Manuel is my “career mentor,” well at least I consider him so. He holds a director position at a graduate program in a university in the US. Four years ago around May, I e-mailed him regarding the graduate program. In December of the same year, he went home to the Philippines for Christmas, and invited me to personally discuss with him prospects of attending the graduate program in his university. I brought with me then my CV–it was sort of an unofficial meet-up, but a meeting nonetheless. He was thrilled at the possibility of me joining the graduate program; so was I, but I ultimately decided to work first. I can always pursue grad school in the future. Incidentally we both play tennis and follow the Tour, which made for an instant connection.

When I was discerning to resign at the law firm, I wanted to hear from an older soul who knows a thing or two about career directions. He was the first person I thought of. We talked over Skype on a Sunday afternoon, Japan time.

My mother, who learned about my chat with Manuel today, probed a little bit about this “appointment”, if you will. In the middle of our conversation she asked, “well does he know that he is your mentor?” It made me think for a second, and responded with “whether or not he knows is irrelevant. I’m not after labels, I’m after the wisdom and the relationship. But I consider and thus call him my mentor.”

The minds of people experienced in their fields and/or in life are a treasure trove of wisdom. I realize that many people misconstrue and not fully grasp mentorship, its value, and the benefits it offers.

MISCONCEPTION 1: Mentorship is for a boss and a subordinate, or an older superior and his/her “next in line.” I consider Manuel my career mentor–we got ourselves introduced to each other when I was still in college. Until now, I come to him for advice which he willingly provides. He’s not my boss, or an elder colleague. In our case, he’s someone I e-mailed for official business and whom I happen to have things in common with (Filipino, tennis lovers, University of the Philippines alumni).

MISCONCEPTION 2: Mentorship is one-way. I will throw an assumption here: it is not only me who gets something out of this relationship (i.e., tips and wisdom), Manuel too. A busy professional like him would have been unwilling to spare an hour or two for an otherwise parasitic symbiosis. Manuel gets fulfillment from being of help to a young determined individual. I myself would devote time (and even money) for an opportunity to add value to another person’s life.

MISCONCEPTION 3: Mentors are scarce. I’m the youngest member in our tennis club, and I love it! Why? Because I’m surrounded with wise people. When I’m not playing tennis or watching a tennis match I am often seen deep in a conversation with my “aunts” and “uncles” at the club. I listen, and I learn. Not all people are selfless, yes, but it’s human nature to give. Whether they are experts in their fields with busy schedules or plain wise from experience and in life, mentors are everywhere. It is not difficult to find one who will offer guidance in a heartbeat if you have the humility and drive to ask. There’s an abundance of wisdom in the world, but few are willing to carry a basket.

When I received another rejection e-mail I immediately reached out to Manuel. He was eager to sit down and talk about it, willing to offer suggestions. Manuel told me that having gone through the final stages of two international applications is telling. He gave me a pat on the back. I also got plenty of insights from our talk today, which was great! But ultimately I feel grateful to have a mentor to turn to when my career isn’t certain and sunshiny.




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