A couple of years ago, I succeeded my manager who retired after a long and full career.
As I reflect back on those two years and on the people who have helped me reach many of my career aspirations, including this gentleman, it struck me how lucky I’ve been to have mentors, people who have taken time, effort, and energy to help me grow.
Many of these people were busy with their own work and yet they stopped what they were doing to give me some time, lend me a hand, or guide me in one direction or another.
My first bank manager is the reason that I found banking to be so much fun and the reason that I chose this as my career (a decision that I still feel wonderfully blessed to have made). He took a very naive, young man, fresh out of graduate school who had no sense of what to do with the future, and guided me to think seriously about banking. He gave me opportunities to succeed (and sometimes fail) and helped me learn from each of them. He gave me the chance to manage others and helped me learn how to do so effectively. Sometimes he taught me on the job, sometimes on a Saturday morning run. But he kept reassuring me that I “had what it took” to succeed in this career if I wanted to.
Whoever it may be, when you mentor someone, you give them the courage, confidence, and belief that maybe they can do something that they hadn’t even dreamed they could do.
The second mentor in my career was my grandfather. He helped me see the true potential I had within the industry. He guided me into an MBA program to help me learn more about business. But most of all, he showed me every day in his business dealings that honesty and integrity were critical to true success and to value the ability to go to sleep at night knowing that I had done the right thing.
The third mentor in my career was my economics professor in college. While I did not major in economics, I did take as many of his classes as possible. He continually encouraged me to find the wonder and awe that he found in economic theories. He challenged me to learn and to become a better student at all things, not just his classes. Recently, I found out that he had cancer and didn’t have long to live. I picked up my phone one day while driving and called him. While he was too ill to visit in person, we had a wonderful chat on the phone and I told him then how much he meant to my career and how fortunate I felt to have him as a professor and as a friend afterwards. At his funeral, his wife told me how much that call meant to him and how it really helped him that day as he was fighting his battle. I’m glad I made that call.
Sometimes he taught me on the job, sometimes on a Saturday morning run. But he kept reassuring me that I “had what it took” to succeed in this career if I wanted to.
Finally, the gentleman I succeeded showed me I could be successful as the manager of the commercial banking group. He sent me an e-mail right before he left, giving me encouragement to stay steadfast, to continue to reach for those goals, and said,” I know you have a good skill set. Just be yourself!!!” What a great confidence booster he gave me. He helped me learn so much about myself while teaching me about the business of commercial lending.
And so it is that I write this note encouraging every reader to find the opportunities to mentor someone. That person may be someone you work with, it may be a customer, it may be a neighborhood kid, or it may be your grandchild. Whoever it may be, when you mentor someone, you give them the courage, confidence, and belief that maybe they can do something that they hadn’t even dreamed they could do. And if you have been mentored, take a moment to drop that person a thank you letter/e-mail/phone call to let them know how much you appreciate their help in getting you to where you are today.