I once said thank you to one of my mentors. He replied “You’re welcome, but there’s no need to thank me. All I ask is that you do the same for others.” And while I had certainly tried before that moment to help out the newest new kids whenever they called and asked, it hadn’t occurred to me in quite that way. So this blog post is an attempt to do as he asked and to urge you to do the same!
Mentors are critical to success in law school and the legal field (and most likely just life in general). They provide insight, validation, constructive criticism, emotional support, wisdom, and in the best moments real friendship. I’ve befriended many of my mentors over the years and keeping in touch with them, even casually, has given me a lot of warmth and happiness. I’ve seen them succeed and grow in their own career paths and as they do, they continue to inspire me to be the best version of myself. I can say without question that every accomplishment worth noting in my life is due in no insignificant part to wonderful mentors.
And you might be reading this thinking “well sure Tatiana, mentorship IS important, but I can’t mentor anyone because I haven’t done anything that qualifies me to BE a mentor.” To that I say: you’re wrong! Mentorship isn’t about being the most accomplished, perfect person to ever walk the face of the Earth, it’s about using your lived experience to help those following in your footsteps, standing in your shadow, or paddling in your wake. It’s about seeing where you are, knowing where you came from, and simply sharing that with the next generation of law students or college students or anyone. Being a mentor in many ways is like being an anchor: you’re what pulls your mentee back to Earth when they’re spinning out of control or overwhelmed with the sheer difficulty of navigating the professional world.
Now you’re thinking “yes, but I am so busy and this sounds like a lot.” And you’re right. It’s “work” in the sense that it takes time out of your day to actively check in on your mentees, edit their personal statements, and answer their frenzied and confused texts. But here’s the thing: someone did it for you. And if you want to thank that person you’re thinking of right now, simply do the same for someone else. It is collectively our obligation to give that immeasurable benefit to the next generation. And for the record, BC Law just isn’t the sort of place (even in the contorted COVID environment) where “being busy” has ever stopped anyone I’ve met from lending a hand to someone in need.
Ever since that exchange with my mentor I have visualized the mentor/mentee relationship as a long chain, spanning back farther than I can see and extending just as far into the future. Each link is attached to two other links. Consider yourself a link in the chain. You wouldn’t be connected without the link that came before you. Do you want to be the end of the chain? By reaching out to help mentor the up-and-coming leaders of our world, the chain keeps going.
You have the power to change lives. That’s not a joke. Consider the most influential people in your life and where you would be without them? If you think you have arrived to this moment, reading this blog post, with wisdom you drummed up entirely on your own, you’re probably not looking at the whole picture. The old African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” does not simply apply to potty-training and table manners. Someone taught you how to write a cover letter, how to speak at cocktail hours, how to dress for an interview. And do you know who doesn’t know how to do those things? The next generation of leaders. But they will only become leaders if they have the tools to do so. Empowering them helps all of us, so be a mentor. You possess so much more knowledge and wisdom than you think and that is worth passing on.