Why You Should Be a Mentor

MentorshipI have spoken at length over the past 4 years about Rezoomers seeking mentors. This month I am speaking to those who would be mentors. You know who you are. You may be a successful Rezoomer or a colleague of a Rezoomer who sees them struggling and can offer to help. Often your help will change the life of the Rezoomer and, by happenstance, change the mentor’s life as well.

I am reaching out to mentors this month because they need to assume the role and help a rezooming attorney. I recently had the good fortune of returning to my rezooming alma mater, Pace University Law School’s, New Direction for Attorneys (ND) Alumni event. Over 200 rezooming attorneys have passed thru these doors in 6-month intervals since 2007. Most have transitioned back into the work force, legal or other. What I recognized about the people in the room was that they were a large group of rezooming mentors, yet they may not see themselves as mentors. These graduates walked the walk and talked the talk back into the workforce. One of the original ND graduates turned administrator, Carol Welch, decided to open her own career coaching firm to provide one on one mentoring for people in career transition. She exemplifies what a rezooming attorney can do by mentoring those who need her.

As I looked around the room at the NYS Judicial Institute at Pace, I realized this program had been in its infancy when I attended in July 2009. Launched in 2007, it was the brainchild of a few very gifted attorneys who were working in the Pace placement office. They saw a need, were supported by the Pace University/Pace Law Administration and created a program that provided mentors as well as instruction.

I was blessed to be mentored by Amy Gewirtz, a fellow Cardozo alum, who at that time was the director of the program. She was brilliant at helping me and all of her students brainstorm their way to success. It was she who encouraged me to follow my passion and not question if it was the safe thing to do. She valued everything her students had done while away from the law. She is the quintessential mentor to rezooming attorneys.

It is essential to have someone like Amy help you refocus your perceptions of the past. Now with 200 rezoomers out there, and that is only from Pace, we need to be that person. We need to take the lead and help people in our old shoes take the leap with a safety net-YOU.

I recognized myself in the recent ND graduates, nervous about what they were about to do but hopeful, due to all they had accomplished, to find their own rezooming niche. As I looked around at my own classmates, I found we were on the whole self assured, pleased with the choices we had made and much more settled and secure.

To the people who have scaled the Rezooming wall, this column is for you. Recognize what you have achieved with the help of a mentor and return the favor to someone slipping his or her litigation shoes back on. You vividly remember that it was not a cakewalk. At the time, finding value in what you did while you were away from the law seemed impossible. It wasn’t until my mentors, Amy Gewirtz along with Carol Welch and Virginia Clark, decided to spin my PTA skill set and Foundation fundraising prowess into gold that I realized what I had done while away had been valuable. As I have said before, while you live it you don’t necessarily see the value. You are too busy getting the job done. It is only when you are forced to take a step back, articulate what you have been up to and review your ‘resume’ with the help of someone who has a value oriented eye, that you see the added strengths you now bring to the table.

I am now reaching out and mentoring young and rezooming attorneys. One such attorney is a junior associate at a large law firm. She started as a paralegal, went to law school and was hired back as a paralegal. Two years later she was made a junior associate.

One might think she took two steps forward and one back. Actually, after listening to her speak about her experiences, though frustrating at the time, she began to see the immense value she now brought to her position. Unlike the other first year associates, she knew her way around documents and court. She was not on a steep learning curve but had ‘been there and done that.’

We spoke for about an hour at an event we both attended and she asked me if she could call and brainstorm with me in the future. That was a switch. As rezooming attorneys, we often still think we don’t have a lot to add to the practice. Shame on us. We have made the transition from the law and then back to the law. We have a depth of knowledge about things on the other side of the table. In short, we are perfect mentors. We can share that hard won knowledge with our newly minted rezooming colleagues.

I will add value to her journey by doing what Amy Gewertz did for me, help her find her net value. Soon she will more clearly recognize what she uniquely brings to the table because of what she has already lived.

Remember, you are only as successful as the last best thing you’ve done. Let that be helping someone walking in a former pair of your shoes step into their brilliance. BE A MENTOR. It’s your time to help others as you were helped. You are needed and have a boatload of rezooming tidbits to share. So get out there and mentor a rezoomer!

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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