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Mentors – They’re All Around Us

In Tapping The Wisdom That Surrounds You: Mentorship and Women, author Elizabeth Ghaffari writes that young women seeking mentors often had no idea where to find such support or what they needed to receive from such a relationship.

But women who aspire to leadership roles, she says, seek and find mentorship all around them: at home, at school, at play, at work, and in the media. Here’s more from her:

Mentors at home include mothers, fathers, siblings, and other relatives — those who have traveled these paths before us and who teach us simple truths: the joy of reading, how words are put together, teasing, different cultures, and different life experiences.  Our choice is to listen to their examples or ignore them. If we gather those lessons together, we gain great wisdom and insight. If we ignore their lessons or fail to give them the respect they have earned, we walk away empty-handed.Mentors at school are the many teachers in our elementary, high school, college, and possibly graduate studies.  These are the people who help us negotiate our awkward years.  Maybe we listen to their advice, but take years later to learn their lessons. Possibly, our teachers have their agenda in mind more than ours; but still we benefit from what they have to show us. These stories encourage others to “remember” mentorship experiences they value.

Mentors at play entail the coaches and teachers on the playing fields of our lives.  Even if young women were discouraged from sports in the pre-Title IX years, now we have had over four decades of equal access to sports funding — literally, a lifetime of team-building, coaching, training, conditioning, and competitive experiences to guide us.

Mentors at work are those who teach us that no job is too small or undignified. Whether corporate, entrepreneurial, or non-profit, every work opportunity brings a host of teachers, advisors, and role models. The many “first” women in a profession or expertise provide  exceptional mentorship guidance by their daring to be outstanding. The collective memory of business case studies shows us how to study and discuss who, why, and how these women made a difference in the workplace.

Mentor role models given at home and school provide the foundation for our later choices of the  media we read, view, or hear.  We are known by the company we keep; so, too, we are defined by the media choices we make. Many magazines, newspapers, blogs, and books focus on “the dearth” of women in some sector.  If we absorb only those negative messages, then we are choosing to ignore the mentorship of positive, affirmative, exemplary role models. Once we concentrate on those messages, we become stuck in staring at the problem rather than reaching to learn the lessons that mentors have in store for us.

“The wisdom of mentors is everywhere — in your memories, the stories you tell yourself and each other, the pages you read, and the people you meet. How you tap that wisdom and make it your very own is the gift of mentorship.”

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