About three years ago I was even more stressed than I am today.  I had a new baby, a new college degree, and an old depressing job.  After being the administrative manager of a mental health clinic for five years I was ready for a change.  I needed a change.  So I stopped sending my resume to places where 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.  I came across a job posting for an operations manager at a children’s center in Manhattan and I thought “I like kids, I guess.”  And so I sent in my resume. 

Getting the call for an interview was a shock.  In my head I had convinced myself that I was a clinic guy, not a children’s center guy.  Yet someone saw my resume for the skill, not the industry.  Finally some luck.  I went on the interview and the first face I saw belonged to someone that looked like me, which relaxed me, but only for a second or two.  Upon further observation I realized that all the kids and parents and staff were white.   Toto, we’re not in Manhattan anymore - I was in Kansas!  I was more nervous than I’d care to admit.  Then I met Catherine, the director of the center and I was at ease again.  The easy feeling crept back in not because she looked like me, far from it, but because I immediately could sense her genuineness.  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. 

I got the job and that’s when my real career began.  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.  And with me the whole time, rooting me on, supporting me, challenging me, and listening to my occasional ranting was Catherine.  She became my career mentor, my sponsor, and my friend.  To this day we openly and honestly talk about race issues and life issues and when she can’t relate she doesn’t act like she can, and she doesn’t BS me with fakeness.   

When Catherine was promoted, she saw to it that I got my shot at a big promotion.  Now I’m Director of Operations for Early Childhood programming for a $100 million agency, not just a single childrens center.  Without people like this many hardworking folk like myself would find it much harder to be noticed.  Experts say that most career success comes from the relationships we make, and I’m proof of that being true.  A decent, albeit low-paying, job makes raising a child a little (not much) easier.

I started thinking about my friend and her influence on my carrer after I read an article in this month’s Black Enterprise.  The article was about the power of mentors for professional advancement (ok the article was about black women benefitting from mentors; it made me have an ah-ha moment anyway).  I also started to think about her because she resigned last week and is moving on to better things.  She’s leaving me to carry on without her.  Alone.  The dynamic duo is now the dynamic uno.  I wish her to the cornfield, I mean, I wish her to the bottom of a well.  Much success!