“Inspiration gets us going, mentorship offers us the support we need to be at our best. To excel we need the right platform to do so, sponsors get us there.”
Life is an indefinite journey and in this journey we all wish we be at our best leading the best life, married to the best partner, performing at our peak in our jobs and at least earning a decent salary if not the richest. That’s the general layout of life for most not all. Unfortunately, not everyone ever gets to this even though we wish and hope we could make it possible for everyone. As this challenge keeps bugging us, I recently had a moment to chat with a friend and through the discussion I got to realize the value of role models and mentors which I decided to write about here. For sponsors, I had watched a YouTube video by Carla Harris awhile back that came back screaming at me and lucky enough I found a follow up to it by Ruth Porat, the CFO Alphabet/Google.
Growing up regardless of our neighborhood and communities, there were grown ups we looked up to. I remember in the village however much the allure of being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, pilot etc. kept coming at us, we were more focused on being teachers. Why? Teachers had decent houses in the neighborhood compared to other villagers, they were the elite and almost everyone in the village used to seek their counsel whenever there was a critical matter to be sorted. That’s how important they were. As a result of this, most children wanted to be teachers and if you asked them why, each of them would most definitely attribute their aspirations to a particular teacher in the school. Fast forward, civilization got into us, other careers gained traction in the communities but instead of these individuals being in the community to take part in the local development agenda, they were moving to the cities. For teachers, fewer and fewer got involved in community initiatives. With this the allure of being a teacher got eroded. These were role models being lost yet generations were being born and raised who needed that inspiration to dream of a better future.
During later years of life, we need people to guide us on what specific things to do to be able to achieve our dreams and goals. In most cases these were people who had insights out of experience, were willing to and committed to mentor others. These served as mentors guiding us to a future we aspired to. However, as times pass, the demands on our lives keep piling. Getting mentors to help us through the journey is not only challenging but almost impossible due to the constraints of time, willingness to commit to mentorships by both mentees and mentors.
Sponsors are individuals who have the social, professional and political capital to be able to earn you access to specific platforms and opportunities. These may be job opportunities, networking opportunities, promotions among others. In order to achieve our desired goals in life, there is need for an individual to take a chance on us. This means there is a human interaction and however much we try to claim meritocracy is at the core of organizational processes, human beings are subjective and that means you need someone who believes in your potential and is willing to cash in their juice for you. This is a concept not much acknowledged even though it has been in our midst for quiet awhile.
Generally, we need all the three sets of individuals in order to be at our best. Unfortunately, in order to drive meaningful progress in our lives and our communities, there is need to focus on how to ensure we can access these individuals and be them for those who need the support.
How do we make it happen? We live in communities and as we do, it’s up to us to continually contribute to the empowerment of the children in the communities. By being there for the children, they have a feel of what your accomplishments look like, they dream to be like you and ultimately strive to emulate you. That’s the first phase. Once, they get inspired, create an enabling environment for them to seek guidance from you which you should offer diligently at your discretion without infringing on your other responsibilities. When you thrive, leverage your influence to make a bet on a junior to be able to scale up the ladder.
Juniors aren’t exempted of responsibility though. As a young person with a dream and an aspiration, it’s important to take lead and guide your interactions with your mentor. A mentor guides you on a path you’ve chosen not into their journey. Know what you want and then seek guidance in that path to be able to achieve your goals. When granted the chance, make the best of it by doing your job, deliver on your mandate. By excelling, you manifest the value of that mentorship and with that the mentor is more inclined to support and guide you along the way. They may even be willing to sponsor you at critical moments. This may not be outright so you have to earn it. We are in an era of subjective meritocracy where you need to prove yourself to earn a favor. Make the best of every opportunity.
“We are who we are because of those who came before us, showed us the way, held our hands and released us to fly. They gave us wings to fly. May we pay it forward.”