Mentorship Awareness Month

by Laura Arnett (Laura is the Business Development Director for Flynn Wright, a Midwest-based advertising agency with clients nationwide. With 5 years of experience in the advertising industry and 10 years in property management prior to that, Laura is well-versed in how important the customer experience is no matter the industry. Her varying roles and background have forged a deep passion for her in the areas of team development, relationship building, and community engagement. Community involvement is very important to Laura, and she actively participates in volunteer opportunities with the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls, as an Executive Committee member with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and as a board member for the National Kidney Foundation and Employment Disability Resources.)

As we wrap up National Mentorship Awareness Month, I find myself reflecting on my own mentorship journey and the incredible impact that was made by those willing to invest in my success as a person and professional. I think it’s important to highlight that mentors can be found in unconventional or unexpected ways (and at any stage of life!), with many who might not even consider themselves to be mentors at all. There is an incredible need in our community today for youth mentors with over 400 students still in need of mentors in Sioux Falls alone, but there is very little discussion surrounding
mentorship as a person enters adulthood and the professional workforce. Youth mentoring provides an undeniable foundation for the next generation as they are navigating what, for some, is the hardest time of their lives with little to no support in their family dynamic through no fault of their own. These dynamics should never be looked down upon or with a judgmental eye as so many are doing everything they can to survive and provide for their families in an economy that isn’t getting any easier. Mentorship helps bridge the gap between wanting the best and most for our youth and not having enough time to achieve that. They say raising kids takes a village, and mentorship is certainly a vital component of that
village for this community, and we are so blessed for the abundance of resources through non-profits and volunteers to make that happen every day for our kids.

On this final day of Mentorship Month, I would be remiss if I didn’t give thanks and recognition to two individuals I credit with much of my personal and professional development. These two incredible people poured into me without any expectation of reciprocity, and they are due every level of appreciation I can give because I know without a doubt, I would not be who I am today if not for them.

Neither of these people know I am writing this article about them, so I will change their names to protect anonymity. I will call them Jane and John.

Jane is the first person I encountered in my professional career who was more than just a coworker. I had stepped into a job at a new company that was maybe slightly above my experience level at that time. I had a big title and far more employees than ever before while I was still somewhat young myself both in age and overall experience. I had worked in that specific industry for a few years already, but I still had so much to learn while constantly feeling the pressure of a role that was going to be a challenge for me. Jane engaged with me very early in my tenure to provide support and guidance that was far
outside her roles and responsibilities at the company. She quickly became someone I could trust and confide in while also giving me a healthy dose of reality when I needed it. To this day, I admire her ability to help guide me to a lesson learned without being “preachy” and provide me with the opportunity to see where my personal biases or inexperience were rearing their ugly heads in an approachable way. I was, admittedly, very stubborn and tried to handle everything myself much more than I do today (although I know those qualities are still there), but Jane knew how to tap into those traits in an way
that helped me grow and evolve as a person and as someone who had high aspirations for herself and her staff. She helped me see the world in a much different light than I’d ever considered before all the while pushing me to always be better as a person, a boss, a coworker and a mom. She helped me see the value in the “little things” for my staff like recognition, support and guidance that I would have written off as unnecessary and I carry those lessons with me to this day. She has since moved to another state (twice!) and we haven’t spoken in a few years, but I will never forget or deny the unmistakable change she made in my life for the better.

John is someone who became an unexpected mentor for me and I can guarantee he doesn’t view himself that way at all. He was an immediate friend on my first day at a new job due to many shared interests between us even though we were not in the same department or even the same age bracket. John and I quickly formed a fast friendship that I still cherish to this day, but what John probably doesn’t know is how much he truly impacted my life at a critical point in time. I had been in a career that spanned nearly a decade with many levels of success, but I started to feel like maybe this wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. That maybe this career that I had worked so hard for and sacrificed so much for, wasn’t paying off in the way I hoped it would, and that was a TERRIFYING feeling. What made it worse is that I had no idea what an alternative career could even look like, let alone where to even start all the while wondering if everything I had done the past ten years was all a waste. John was the first person to say “how can I help?” He immediately started working his connections to find opportunities for me, which provided no benefit to him. He was tireless in his pursuit of helping me find my next path, which did come fairly quickly in the form of a company I had never heard of but turned out to be owned by two of the greatest people I’ve come to value in my life. John went to bat for me with these owners, put his own reputation on the line by backing me for a job I had no experience in and convinced them to give me a chance. This path was one of the most difficult things I have ever done and I questioned so many days if I had made another mistake trying to start all over in my mid-30s. But, John (along with so
many others) was a constant wave of support and guidance through it all which helped me push through to eventual success. That path has now led to so many incredible, invaluable experiences, opportunities and relationships that I would NEVER have known if John hadn’t put himself out there to provide help and mentorship when I needed it most.

If you are not currently a mentor and would like to be more involved, I urge you to reach out to the Sioux 52 Mentoring Initiative where they can connect you with organizations who need mentors.

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