My Dad was tough around the edges, but he was a kind and generous man. Whether it was family, friends, acquaintances or strangers in need, Dad always tried to help them get back on their feet. While I respected him as a businessman, my greatest admiration was due to his willingness to help others.
A Legacy of Giving
One way I choose to continue my father’s legacy of giving is by mentoring students and early career adults.
A few years back, I wrote a series on mentoring. The first blog of the series offered industry professionals mentoring tips. The second blog advised how mentors can help young professionals in the CRE industry. And the final blog examined mentoring benefits.
I am a mentoring advocate, whether you participate in a formal program, act informally as an advisor or assist a young colleague. I currently advise ten individuals.
I participate in The Robinson College of Business Mentoring Programs at Georgia State University (GSU). In this program, I am assigned one student per semester. Students are required to participate in the program, which includes one phone call per week and one meeting per month throughout the semester. It’s a minimum time investment that elicits a huge payoff.
The interesting thing is many of my mentorees are not real estate students. (A few are.) This mentoring relationship is not about teaching them. IT IS ABOUT HELPING THEM MAKE CAREER DECISIONS. Often, these students have limited parental guidance as GSU is a large, culturally diverse university with many first-generation college students, some of whom are venturing into uncertain waters. My goal to is to help them reach shore safely.
Here’s how I approach these mentoring relationships.
Find out as much as I can about each student, starting with these questions:
- What is your background?
- What do you THINK you want to do and why?
- How do you plan to achieve your goals?
- What are your challenges?
- What do you want to achieve through this mentorship?
Once I get to know my mentorees, we consider where they currently are, where they can go and how they will get there. I strive to help them REALISTICALLY define their goals and develop a plan to take their first steps. If you start in the wrong direction, you will never get where you want to go.
I always encourage each student to secure a professor advocate—a professional who can offer guidance in the student’s field or connect him or her to other business professionals.
Lastly, when job seeking, I urge students to contact companies directly and encourage them to make personal contact rather than just submitting online resumes through job websites without human interaction.
Here’s a few examples of the individuals whom I have mentored.
- There’s Rita. I started mentoring Rita five years ago over coffee. I’ve worked with her through college graduation and several jobs. When she got married, I attended her wedding. I continue to meet with Rita to offer encouragement and guide her in the right direction.
- Emily, another mentoree, graduated college at 19 with a double major. Now at Emory Law School, she is also contemplating med school. As mentor, I connect Emily with relevant professionals in these industries, so she can make educated choices for her next academic or career steps.
- My mentoree Dana is a bright 47-year-old woman mid-career. I helped Dana evaluate her current work situation (with which she was frustrated) and guided her to a new company, offering her a brighter future.
- Lesly is a Haitian National, a marketing major who is involved in a nonprofit leadership institute in Haiti. Using my nonprofit board experience, I offered him ideas on how to leverage his marketing background to make the institute more effective and financially viable.
Mentoring as Investment
I am an investor. It’s what I do. The way I see it, mentoring is simply another investment.
Investing in young people is one of the best ways to invest in your community You can participate in a formal program, with GSU being particularly ripe with students who need guidance. Or you can be like my Dad. When someone needs help, you simply step up!
Are you an active mentor? How has it impacted your life? Your mentoree’s life?