You Can Make a Difference
Haven’t we all fantasized about strutting into our boss’s office, slamming our palms on the table, and announcing “I QUIT!” Well, effective advice has the power to turn one’s troubled career into a positive professional experience before it comes to that extreme. That is why mentors are so important in any field of work, and they should have three essential qualities:
1. TRUSTWORTHY – You can confide in them regarding any work-related problems, no matter how big or small.
2. EXPERIENCED – This person has worked in your position before so he or she can relate to your situation and feelings.
3. WISE – Your mentor should provide consistently beneficial feedback that helps resolve your work issues. Once you find a mentor, make sure to meet with him or her on a regular basis to keep that special person abreast of your progress. I consider myself an extremely lucky “mentee” because my dad was my mentor teacher!
The best career advice I ever got from him occurred at the genesis of my teaching career. When I started my new job in a Los Angeles public high school, I struggled to do well. I was only 21 years old and fresh out of college. I knew nothing, yet thought I could change the world. So typical of a new teacher my age. Teaching was my first career, so I did not have grounds for comparison. All I knew was that this job was tougher than I thought it would be, both academically (as I struggled to teach engaging lessons), and emotionally (as I tried to connect with students, many of whom were failing). Every night, I would go home drained and disappointed in my performance.
Since my dad was also an educator, I went to him for advice often. When I asked him how to teach well, he told me something that resonated to this day: “Teach as if your own child is in the classroom, learning from you.” My first thought was, “Wow, every day, when my dad teaches, he imagines that I am in one of the seats. Even though I do not have any children now, I do want children someday, and I can imagine what I would want their educational experience to be like; it definitely includes teachers who plan lessons with equal parts heart, creativity, and subject matter knowledge. And, they teach those lessons with precision, passion, and wisdom.”
My dad, knowing me too well, said that since I do not have children, something else he sometimes does is “imagine that the next president of the United States of America is in the room.” I loved this idea too because it changed my view of students as children with potential to seeing them as young adults with future careers that will impact the world. In this way, I am responsible for the education of future doctors, lawyers, scientists, writers, artists, psychics, and even teachers like myself. This was the best advice I ever got because all I had to do was update how I see my pupils, and that made a positive change in my teaching style.
Even if you are not a teacher, I’m sure you all have to work with difficult people at times, and you have professions that require planning, patience, and thoughtfulness just like a teacher has! So, my advice for you is “Work as if someone important in your life is in the room, learning the trade from you.” When you sense that people you care about are around, you naturally will know your best moves in the workplace. Whatever other valuable advice you do receive, please never forget to thank your mentor for guiding you toward career enjoyment and fulfillment. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to march into your boss’s office to say, “Hey, I really love working here!”