Over the last ten years of my life, my view on mentorship has vastly changed to the point where I don't trust people.
Immediately out of college I took on three consecutive internships and was burned three consecutive times. It really sucks when you commit time and energy to a project with the intention of connecting with people, learning from the best, and building your resume only to have them tell you that: 1) you should be committing more time to your unpaid internship rather than enjoying weekends with your boyfriend and family, 2) you will never be good enough to be paid, and 3) all of the work you have completed cannot be used in your portfolio because … because.
Lesson learned: Never do an unpaid internship in exchange for knowledge. People can be rude, unkind, and will only help you so long as they are bringing in money based on work you've done (aka breaking the law).
This is not to say that I haven't had positive influences on my life.
I have amazing family and friends who have always inspired me and brought out the best in me.
• There is my husband who was with me when I received one of those emails from an internship and saw me shaking and crying as I tried to respond with any amount of dignity. He held me together as I wrote the email and encouraged me to keep trying. I did – and got burned again, but that's another story. Of course – that's not the only time he has been an emotional support. That's what husbands are for, right? ;)
• My grandparents have also been a huge support in my life – both emotional and otherwise. They would pick me up from after school activities like orchestra and chorus; they bought me my first computer and installed games to help me with spelling and math. And then there was that Christmas when I received a big heavy gift under the tree. You'll never believe what it was! … A Webster's dictionary. It was both the most exciting and most boring gift I have ever received. But that shows you how dedicated to my education and seeing me succeed they were. <3.
• My parents have also been involved in my life. My mom checked over my homework every night making sure I dotted all of my i's and crossed all of my t's while my dad helped me with projects – anything from science to art. He encouraged me to be creative and think outside of the box. Unlike my mom, who I could occasionally get to type up a report for me, my dad refused to do any of my homework. In fact, he would show me how to solve a problem once and then go back to watching tv waiting for me to figure it out. In the end, it worked. Kudos to him for being more interested in television than solving my math problems for me. ;)
• And, oh, my friends. :) Email is how I first learned to type. You never know how fast you can learn to keyboard until you have something important to say. :) And the same friend that taught me to type always made the time to look over my English papers correcting errors and encouraging me to use active voice instead of passive. Meanwhile, another friend took my writing in a whole different direction; limited vocabulary meant I had to be simple and direct. (If only I had kept that up! Writing emails to him would take hours as I proofread and proofread again critiquing and analyzing every single word!) We won't even talk about emotional catastrophes and how these people helped me get through them.
• Finally – my teachers. In fifth grade I had a teacher that would always call on me during math class. I hated math; it was my worst subject. And thus? I hated her. :( But my math skills really improved under her guidance. She was the same teacher that said I had to read books from different genres by different authors. Looking back, she was a really great teacher. :) And then there was a college professor who related history to what was currently going on in the world. Justin disliked her and said she was full of it; I loved her. :) I got to write a paper on the history of Monopoly, the board game! How fun is that!
So, while my viewpoint on internships and mentorships is far from the best, I am definitely grateful for all of the people who have had a positive influence on my life. People who have encouraged me and told me that nothing I desire is out of reach; people who have chosen to be there for me through all of life's ups and downs.
Looking back on your life, who had the biggest influence on the person you are today? Was it mentors who provided career guidance? Teachers, friends, or family? Some of each? … Will you be taking the time to thank them for all they've done this Valentine's Day?
* I participating in #LoveBlog this month and you can too! Click here to see the prompts!