Bravery: How Seeking My Own Mentor Made Me Realize the Power of Paying it Forward
“If you’re looking for a mentor, being brave enough to put yourself out there to find someone who can help professionally can literally change your life.”
By Jasmine Johnson
A part of me being where I am today had to do with being brave enough to search for community. While the idea of having a support system in STEM is ideal, it was something I had to search high and low for, and eventually create, during my undergraduate career. Aspiring to be a cosmetic chemist, it wasn’t as simple as going to career services and looking for alumni. I quickly realized the search for community wasn’t going to be an easy task. For me to fully understand what I wanted to do, I recognized I would have to be bold and brave enough to seek out my own mentors and build my own STEM community.
I recall a late night and when I was overwhelmed with balancing school, work and life, and, frustrated, I thought to myself, If I’m figuring out my own path without a concrete blueprint and no one to look to, why bother anymore? Throwing in the towel, I cried for a bit and got away from reality by scrolling through social media. While doing so, I saw someone who was doing exactly what I wanted to do career wise. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and I took the courage to email a complete stranger about the frustration, confusion and excitement I felt to have found someone who did what I wanted to do and who looked like me.
High risk; high reward.
I almost felt embarrassed sending such a personal novel of an email to a complete stranger, but it was worth the risk. To my surprise, she returned an email that was just as long, if not longer, with encouraging words and advice that gave me the extra push I needed when I was on the verge of quitting. Fast forward two years and she is now a part of my support system and a mentor I can turn to for advice and feedback about my professional career.
There’s something fantastic about being mentored and having someone in your circle that has been through what you’re going to endure professionally and, sometimes, personally. You have to be brave enough to share your experiences with people who may initially be complete strangers. For someone looking for a mentor, being brave enough to put yourself out there to find someone who can help professionally can literally change your life.
Paying it forward.
Nothing gives me more motivation than to hear my mentor say she’s proud of me and I’m on the right track. That support is unmatched and my only goal is to be able to pay it forward and become a mentor to a woman of color in STEM or a girl in STEM who needs my help—and you should, too. I have that first email thread I sent to her posted on my wall because it has that much of an impact on me.
Seeking a mentor and paying it forward by being a mentor is the most rewarding thing you can do. If it wasn’t for having mentors, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
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