Susan Smith Blakely

Best Friends at the Bar: A Reminder of the Power of Mentoring

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on the Best Friends at the Bar blog on September 9, 2011.

Well, here I am, back after a wonderful summer respite full of time with old friends, new friends and family.  I have survived an earthquake, a hurricane and flash floods here on the East Coast, and I am renewed and ready to concentrate again on my projects for young women lawyers.

There are lots of new things on the horizon for me, like a newly-designed web site, a new book, a new research assistant, and an exciting new schedule for the coming work/school year. Don’t forget to remind your schools and law firms about my programs, and check out the web site for a list of my appearances.

However, as with all things new, there are challenges, and I am feeling some of those challenges these days.  Once upon a time I worked for law firms, and I had lots of “people” addressing lots of “stuff” that I, therefore, did not have to address.  Stuff like marketing, web sites, press and public relations, strategic plans, and the list goes on.  Then came my days as an entrepreneur, and now I am the chief cook and bottle washer for my business, and most of the time I feel like a one-armed paper hanger!

So, like so many of you at certain times in your careers, I find myself wondering what to do when I cannot find enough time in the day to get it all done and end up having trouble seeing the forest for the trees?  Well, you know if you read my book; and I should have remembered sooner. What to do, of course, is to find a mentor. Fortunate for me, the answer to my mentoring needs was right under my nose.

My mentor is amazing, and he also happens to be my friend.  He is a Harvard MBA, former CEO of a bunch of companies, a recognized national business leader, and a really good teacher. He is interested in my book/speaking/counseling project because he believes in my mission for young women lawyers, because he wants to help me succeed, and because he wants to give back after all of his personal good fortune. (How does that go - to those who much has been given, much is expected?  My mentor is a believer.) In other words, he is helping me for all of the right reasons.

This positive experience has reminded me what makes a good mentor.  My mentor listens to me and is interested in my goals and objectives.  He gives excellent advice and counsel, and he does independent research when he is not sure of something so that he does not lead me astray. He keeps bringing our conversations back to core themes in an inoffensive way when I am off on a tangent, and he does not make me feel like the business fool that I could easily conclude that I am. And, last but not least, he has a good sense of humor that puts me at ease (and it is not easy to be at ease in the presence of giants).

Hats off to all good mentors who meet this criteria, especially MINE!  He knows who he is, and I have confidence that he will see these remarks.  He will know from reading them that he truly is making a difference for me, and that I consider myself very lucky for the opportunity to learn from him.  I suspect that the many others who he has helped over the course of his career would agree with this heartily.

Find a mentor!.  Maybe you will be as lucky as I’ve been.

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