In case you missed it, January 21st, 2016 was “Thank Your Mentor Day; ” an initiative of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a part of the School’s “National Mentoring Month Campaign.” On this day, Americans are urged to “thank or honor those individuals who encouraged and guided them, and had a lasting, positive impact on their lives.”
Perhaps overshadowed by social media’s warm embrace of “National Popcorn Day” on January 19th, I found out about this initiative through my sister, whom after navigating the world of tech and development for a few years co-founded a growing company, Glassbreakers, aimed at easily connecting mentees with mentors (and vice versa) through a digital mentorship platform.
Mentorship is something that I’ve thought a lot about as my career continues to evolve.
Perhaps this is because I’ve basked in the warm glow of a mentor’s support, teaching, and guidance, and have also experienced the contrasting feelings of vulnerability, crippling stress, and elated excitement in the absence of a mentor and in full possession of my decisions and actions (not to mention their related outcomes.)
As we learned the second (if not the first) day of architecture school, there are no right decisions. Sans “right” or “wrong,” we are left with options that can be explored infinitesimally. From those options or ideas, a few contenders seem to consistently rise to the top, whether through preference, intuition, and/or analysis (usually a combination of all three.)
Working with a confident mentor that generated concepts and realized work that, while not adhering to the terms “right” or”wrong,”) felt manifestly important and thoughtfully justified, has been one of the more invaluable first experiences of my professional life. While many people enjoy the challenge of immediately being thrown into the deep end and figuring out their voice through independent trial and error, I found it helpful to have someone more experienced in their career help create distance between me and the challenging client-related, managerial, and administrative tasks of an architectural office. Instead, for a brief time, I was given the chance to simply learn, to make, to explore, and to imagine.
On the “National Mentoring Month” webpage, we are asked to acknowledge “Thank Your Mentor Day,” by doing one of the following activities:
Contact your mentor directly to express your appreciation;
Express your gratitude on social media.
Pass on what you received by becoming a mentor to a young person in your community;
Make a financial contribution to a local mentoring program in your mentor’s honor; and,
Write a tribute to your mentor for posting on the Who Mentored You?
All valid ideas of ways of expressing “thanks” to the people that invest their time and energy into our well-being, this list only begins to scratch the surface of ways in which mentees might acknowledge the personal time and investment an individual has put forth to watch them grow and, by widely-interpreted definition, succeed.