By Dawn Onley
Since college, I’ve been blessed with some great mentors. They have spent countless hours giving me invaluable advice, reviewing and editing my work, providing feedback, and making vital introductions, all of which has helped to steer me along a successful journalism path.
At one time, they had all been where I was – a young journalist – and they were eager to help me finagle the journey, applying the wisdom that they had gained from their lessons learned.
One volunteered to mentor me through a program my college newspaper set up that matched journalism students at Norfolk State University with reporters from The Virginian-Pilot/Ledger-Star, a mid-sized daily newspaper that served my college town.
The rest, I approached and asked if they would mentor me. I saw something in them that I wanted to emulate. So, I went for it.
In whatever area in my life in need of direction, I’ve always found it helpful to read, study, meet, and when possible, align myself with the people who have been there and done that, successfully. It has made a real impact. It has gotten me through doors that would have taken much longer to knock down on my own. In some cases, it even put me at the top of the list for job interviews.
Some of these mentors have been formal; many more have been informal. The one thing they all have in common is I admire them. I have a lot of respect for them. Some don’t even realize that when I spend time with them, they’re teaching me. I use these moments to soak up as much knowledge as I can. Always the lifelong student, I strive to apply what I’ve learned.
Who we align ourselves with in life is extremely important. Who we keep time with can influence how far we go. If everybody on your team is in the same boat as you, with the same knowledge and experiences, what are you learning from them? How are they helping you get to the next level? If you want to be successful financially, yet everyone you hang around with is broke, who will guide you to make different choices? If I want a successful marriage, yet no one in my close circle has had a successful marriage, who will be my example? How will I learn?
“You cannot be mentored by people who can’t take you where they have not been themselves,” said Bishop T.D. Jakes, during one of his many insightful sermons.
I’ve found it to be true. We can all learn new things on our own, but choosing the right mentor offers us a strategic advantage. We get the opportunity to have a free, one-on-one exchange with someone who has already accomplished something that we are going after. We get their time. We get some of their resources. We get their insight. We get their lessons.
When we do this, we are positioning ourselves for success. Intentionally.