Finding A Magical Leadership Mentor


This past weekend I was a speaker at the International Association of Administrative Professionals NJ Division conference where I shared my thoughts and ideas about Mentoring Partnerships. This dynamic organization decided it would be a great benefit to create a Mentoring Program to leverage the extraordinary gifts and talents of its members. I was so impressed with the commitment of the attendees to one another and their support of helping each other become stronger leaders. Here are some take-aways from the presentation, both of what I shared and what I learned from these extraordinary professionals.

Most of us could not be where we are today in our careers without a mentor.

We shared our stories of the impact that mentors have made in our journeys, both professional and personal. In fact, myself included, have changed careers several times and were guided and empowered by a mentor.

I began my journey as a teacher. When I was in college I loved my teaching internship at a high school in Buffalo, NY. I remember my mentor, Doris and how she empowered me to tackle assignments I was frankly scared to do.

She once asked me to teach a lesson on a romance movie to a 12th grade English class. I was petrified of being able to create the lesson so I approached her and asked:

“Doris, how will I do this? I don’t even know the movie!”

She responded: “Don’t worry, we will work on this together and you will be great!”

I remember trying to conjure up the confidence to get in there and impart my pitiful knowledge on these amazing seniors.

I couldn’t believe how well it went! The kids shared so much that I just ran with a few concepts and I felt so excited. Yes I could be a teacher and Doris’s belief in me and my abilities propelled me forward. She was an incredible mentor.

Mentors are magical people we met along the way who take an interest in us and empower us to achieve greater things than we even knew we could.

My second career move happened when I decided to pursue my MBA- a little risky for a woman who didn’t love mathematical analysis or finance.

During my business program, I met a professor who taught organizational behavior. He took a liking to me as he welcomed my comments and suggestions. Here I was in this highly technical graduate school being empowered to use my verbal skills and share the importance of people in organizations.

He told me:

“Terri, when you graduate, get the best job with the best company and you will find your niche.”

Well I did just that! I landed a highly financial job in a NYC bank and transformed into a lending officer.

Ok you might be wondering why I would accept a financial job, but my confidence was building and I believed in what my mentor professor had said.

Mentors believe in us and what we can accomplish.

At the bank, I meant a nurturing man in Human Resources  who engaged me about where I wanted to end up. He shared what HR did and how I could be an asset with my technical skills and chatty people skills.

Well four years later, Mentor Gil helped me land my first position in what would be the beginning of my career today. He connected me with the critical players in the HR area. His patience and belief that I was a natural made him a wonderful mentor.

 What magical person have you met along the way who made a difference in your career choices or direction? Would love to hear your stories!



13 thoughts on “Finding A Magical Leadership Mentor

  1. I also believe that it is a great idea to have more than one mentor. I think it is beneficial to have both formal and informal mentors as they each help us in different ways. Your approach is terrific Karin and offers great sound advice. Thanks so much for sharing your article with us.

  2. Terri – I LOVE the way you put it – “magical mentors” My mentors over the years really did have a magical touch on my career. They didn’t tell me what to do or even share all of their know-how… they pulled my know-how out of ME by standing with me and believing in me. Over the years, I’ve done my best to consistently mentor others to pass on the magical gift of someone who truly cares and doesn’t need a thing in return (although mentors get a ton out of the relationship)

    I was a teaching major for a year in college and I can vividly remember my first student teaching! The teacher who’s classroom I was in for the term was not only a role model but also a mentor to me as well. I used that knowledge and experience from teaching and engaging and put it to use in my training with adult learners. Guess we’re both teachers first!

  3. Terri, Mentors come to us in different ways, small bursts of guidance and longer term sounding boards as we go. I had more of the first. From my first job, someone took a chance on me and, by doing that, my career had a great foundation to build from. All along the way, many more people helped me than tried to hold me back. Spending the time to think through our mentors and then thank them is a wonderful thing to do! Jon

  4. Great post Terri! I have had many awesome mentors along the way in my life, but the one that really stands out is my first one, my running coach in High School who was also my Guidance Counselor. During the many long runs for cross country, he always gave me solid advice, inspiration and support. And the coolest thing is…. we are still connected today after ALL these years. Mentoring rocks and that is why I have now dedicated my life to doing it!

  5. I never knew you had a teaching background Alli! We are connected in so many ways! I also was able to leverage some of my teaching skills into my training design and content as well as into my platform skills. Teaching is a great way to practice getting up in front of people and figuring out your gifts and ways you want to grow.

    You are a “magical mentor” and those individuals who have an opportunity to partner with you are very blessed!

    The idea that when we mentor we need not necessarily share all of our know-how is important as it is essential that mentees learn how to find the solutions for themselves. Through empowering questions, mentors can help people see their direction more clearly.

    Thanks Alli!

  6. Wonderful point that mentor partnerships may be short, yet very impactful!

    Being a strategic listener is an important skill for mentors rather than directing any direction or choices. Mentoring is a learning partnership for both mentor and mentee. It is a two-way street where both grow and gain insights. As you so eloquently share on your Thin Difference blog, Millennials have so much to teach us too!

    Thanks Jon!

  7. Wow Cynthia, to still be connected to such an important mentor is extraordinary! It is true that mentors can often turn into lifelong friends and people we can always reconnect with for guidance and support.

    You are very lucky to have met those people along the way who inspired you to do what you do so beautifully today.I would also add that you probably were an eager mentee, open-minded and willing to try out some honest feedback.

    Thanks Cynthia for your wonderful additions! I appreciate you stopping by and sharing!

  8. This is a great post, Terri!

    Mentors are so important to us, and I envy the way you’ve been able to pinpoint with clarity the people who made such a difference in your career along the way.

    I have to admit my mentors have not always “taken me under their wing” in such a friendly way, but I have met people along the way who taught me the tricks of the trade, and for that I am eternally grateful.

    Your reminder that mentors are around us all the time if we just look for them really spoke to me.

    Thanks again, Terri! You always make me think 🙂

  9. I had to take up the HR Projects one by one as soon as i stated my career either reporting boss had just resigned or reporting boss was yet to join hence, i learned my lesson through trial and error but i had my super boss who had been a magical mentor who believed in me and my let my confidence bloom, i am today in this position because i learned from him,now its our turn to return what we have learned to the our subordinate and be magical mentor for them.

  10. What an interesting point, LaRae, that you feel the mentors in your life have not “taken you under their wing” in a more formal sense. I am sure many people have your same experience and I am sure you learned from them all the same.

    I love that you have spent time looking for mentors who are there to reach out to. We are not always so able to “ask” them for guidance and feedback, yet when we do we cultivate powerful partnerships.

    Thanks LaRae for sharing your story and insights!

  11. I love your story, Hema and how you were able to learn so much from your boss, who was a great mentor to you.

    I am thrilled to hear that you are paying it forward by being a mentor to your subordinates now. People who have been mentored by others in a meaningful way can share those experiences with others by taking the lead to mentor others. It is in this way that we can learn and grow by being both mentors and mentees.

    Thanks for stopping by and adding your great insights!

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