About three years ago I was even more stressed than I am today.Â I had a new baby, a new college degree, and an old depressing job.Â After being the administrative manager of a mental health clinic for five years I was ready for a change.Â I needed a change.Â So I stopped sending my resume to placesÂ whereÂ I knew I would at least get an interview, and instead started to send my resume to places I thought I might actually like to work.Â I came across a job postingÂ for an operations managerÂ at a children’s center in Manhattan and I thought “I like kids, I guess.”Â And so I sent in my resume.Â
GettingÂ the call for an interview was a shock.Â In my head IÂ had convinced myself that I was a clinic guy, not a children’s center guy.Â Â Yet someoneÂ saw my resume for the skill, not the industry.Â Finally some luck.Â I went on the interview and the first face I sawÂ belonged to someone that looked like me, which relaxed me, but only for a second or two.Â Upon further observation I realized that all the kids and parents and staff were white.Â Â Toto, we’re not in Manhattan anymore -Â I was in Kansas!Â I was more nervous than I’d care to admit.Â Then I met Catherine, the director of the center and I was at ease again.Â Â The easy feelingÂ crept back inÂ not because she looked like me, far from it, but because I immediately could sense her genuineness.Â After speaking to her for an hour or so I knew I wanted to work with her, despite the fact that I thought the environment was a teensy bit suspect.Â
I got the job and that’s when my real career began.Â It was there that I learned budget management, developed my project management skills, supervised the largest staff I ever had and discovered that my brain could work through some complex organizational crap.Â AndÂ with meÂ the whole time, rooting me on, supporting me, challenging me, and listening to my occasional rantingÂ was Catherine.Â She became my career mentor, my sponsor, and my friend.Â To this day we openly and honestly talk about race issues and life issues andÂ when sheÂ can’t relate she doesn’t act like she can, and she doesn’t BS me with fakeness.Â Â
WhenÂ Catherine was promoted, she saw to it that IÂ got myÂ shot at a big promotion.Â Â Now I’m Director of Operations forÂ Early Childhood programming forÂ a $100 millionÂ agency, not just a single childrens center.Â WithoutÂ people like this many hardworkingÂ folk like myself would find it much harder to be noticed.Â Experts say that most career success comes from the relationships we make, andÂ I’m proof of that being true.Â A decent, albeit low-paying,Â job makes raising a child a little (not much) easier.
I started thinking about my friend and her influence on myÂ carrer after IÂ read an article in this month’s Black Enterprise.Â The article was about theÂ power ofÂ mentors for professional advancement (ok the article was about black women benefitting from mentors; it made me have an ah-ha moment anyway).Â I also started to think about her because she resigned last week and is moving on to better things.Â She’s leaving me to carry on without her.Â Alone.Â The dynamic duo is now the dynamic uno.Â I wish her to the cornfield, I mean, I wish her
to the bottom of a well.Â Much success! Â
Wow, that sucks that she is leaving, but I’m sure not for her.
It is wonderful to have a mentor, that’s something I missed out on and wish I had. I was actually talking with my husband about a woman who is the exec director where I work. She is a very powerful woman and has enormous respect from everyone in the community. I watch her in meetings, with staff and others in awe. I can’t even imagine how much further I would be in my career had she mentored me when I was younger.
I’m hoping she’s around for awhile and I don’t find myself wishing her (to the bottom of a) well ANYTIME soon. LOL
A good mentor is hard to find. One thing I wished I had learned in all the programs I was involved in in high school was how to network and the art of successful networking…Its a powerful skill that young black professionals are missing out on!