A few years ago, a fellow member of the board of directors of the African American Black Employees Network (AABEN) reached out to me asking if I would allow one of his co-workers to shadow me at work. His co-worker worked in customer service, but she had a criminal justice degree and also had an interest in corporate law. Unfortunately due to the attorney privileged and confidentiality of my work as a Sr. Legal Specialist at a large nonprofit insurance company, I was not able to honor that request. But instead of just saying no, I offered to sit and meet with her. I figured we could at least talk about my job and the type of I work I handle as well as the work the other Sr. Legal Specialists on my team are responsible for.
When we met, we talked about her current position, her goals and the track on which she would like to take her career. We discussed the pros and cons of staying with the company and seeking alternative positions within the company as well as pros and cons of leaving the company to gain experience and then returning to the company as an experienced paralegal.
The company I worked for offered a formal mentorship program, which she applied for, but she was not selected for the program. The program allowed people that want to share their knowledge and expertise to connect with people that are looking for mentors. It was a great program, but if there was no mentor available for your particular career path, you would not be selected and would have to reapply the next time around. With the volume that comes in the legal department, it was not surprising that the attorneys did not always have the bandwidth to mentor.
After talking with her for an hour, we decided to keep in touch with each other. I offered her the opportunity to reach out to me anytime with questions and I offered to review her resume for her. When I got back to my desk I mentioned the meeting to one of the other Sr. Legal Specialist and talked about the potential that I saw in this young woman that I had just spent time with. It was then that I decided that I would offer to mentor her myself, in an informal capacity. I reached out to my supervisor to ensure that he was okay with it, since it would impact my work day. He was supportive as always. I reached back out to this young woman and offered her my mentorship and she accepted.
What I thought would be a thirty minute conversation had turned into an opportunity to take this wonderful journey with her as she reached for her goals and dreams.