Before I had ever reflected on the word mentor, I knew that it was essential to find people who could help me realize my dreams and career goals. Most the things I wanted to do in life didn’t have schools, so I searched for people who were doing interesting things and tried to work with them. One of the first mentors I collected was Boston fashion icon Yolanda. I wanted to produce shows, and her legendary fashion shows were irresistible.
For the glamorous couture world of Yolanda, I must have seemed rough around the edges. I remember being terrified during the job interview: I lacked the tools, I did not have a fancy wardrobe, I was not particularly elegant, I had no experience. Simply put, I was not an ideal candidate for her team. But Yolanda took me in anyway and I soaked in everything I could about how this entrepreneurial wizard created her empire.
Then I took off to Hollywood. I didn’t know a soul, so I called around to the big entertainment companies and found a sympathetic ear. Marcie Rondon gave me a chance as an intern for Mitch Schneider, a powerful agent in the music world. I interned with them for six weeks, and it launched my entire career.
Years later, as I reflect on mentors and mentorship, I realize that I have been collecting mentors all my life. They’ve helped me achieve my life goals, helped me become a better person, and shaped the course of my career. That’s one reason I co-founded Over My Shoulder: to inspire others to collect mentors, and to be a mentor. “One less hopeless person” has become my personal mantra. Nothing is more dangerous in this life than a lack of hope, but mentoring can keep hope alive.
Who do you admire? Who do you want to emulate? If you know who or what you want to be, find someone who is already living your dreams. This is how I found Alex and Ani, and why I immediately added them to my personal mentor collection. As National Mentoring Month comes to an end we hope the stories we feature have inspired you to think more about mentoring.
—Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Director