The word “mentoring” wasn’t in my vocabulary bank when I grew up.
Largely attributed to my upbringing, since I was about 8 or 9, I cultivated this belief that help was not a common tool available to me. This belief stayed within me, unspoken, un-challenged for over 18-years where I fast forward myself as a fourth-year senior at my first job.
There I was in the UK, a qualified Accountant, struggling with a relatively junior team to execute this project that contained multiple technical components. It was hard though we still made it to a strong finish in the end. Before I knew it, 80 to 90-hours-work week became a norm for a few months that I can still remember very well today.
Another thing that I still remember very well were the number of times I raised my concerns to my manager where I told him: I needed help, more time, and better people – unfortunately, I got very little of those.
I felt lonely in the dark
I felt lonely in the dark in many parts of this project. And the worst of all? When it was time for performance appraisal, I was given the worst career feedback because apparently, I didn’t ask for help.
In my head, I screamed, “I did ask for help!”.
Deep inside me, I hoped. Instead of pushing me down, I in fact needed guidance and support to get me out of the mud so I could keep growing. After all, it was my fourth year in this world called “my professional career”. That year I felt like I was given a death sentence.
For a few months, my work and personal life felt the domino effect from this experience. I felt from that single piece of domino playing the role to collapse my dream to create a better life ahead of me.
I hit my first rock bottom. I realized what a discouraging leader could do to a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
Mindset shift within me
Fortunately to be a gritty individual overall, I soon realized I was unwilling to let this experience to set me down of path of not trying. With a lot of courage, I challenged myself to consider a different way to look at this piece of domino that was turning my life upside-down.
I decided to make this mindset shift within me. Specifically:
- I stopped saying: “You’re wrong” for not helping me.
- I started saying: “Perhaps you’re right” – I realized that, when I decided to not let the negative criticisms stay inside me for any longer than necessary, I stopped feeling them after some time. In other words, I learned to let go so I could move on.
From Darkness to Colors
Realizing a different perspective being available to me in this tough situation was my silver lining and that was my turning point around mentoring from Darkness to Colors.
Fifth year into my first job, I finally met my Mentor. His advice, guidance, constructive feedback toward me were turned into words I use till today. These are:
- “picking me up from deep-ends”
- “standing behind my back to encourage me to push boundaries”
He opened my eyes to something I never had access to since I was a child, that is when someone cares and guides with empathy, that very connection can spark inspiration and empowerment for the individual to flourish.
With this energy, I focused my efforts and time on the areas I could keep learning and growing.
In the upcoming months and years, I continued to shine in one project after another, where bigger opportunities came my way. This experience also opened space inside me to see what colorful mentoring could be and I have since chosen a way forward to go from there.
Now, if you are to ask me what mentoring is, I would say: “mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction”.
Mentoring is like ME as the SUN in the Solar System, where the planets orbit and revolve around the SUN to consistently care, connect, inspire, empower ME to dream more, do more, become more.
Mentors have a bigger role to play
In my current world of Mentoring with Colors, I don’t stop at ME only.
- At work, I lead and mentor my team to grow them so they can grow their careers. I also recently led a group of women from the Asia region of my current organization to set up a Community to grow together.
- Within the Community, I volunteer to mentor university students at Women’s Leadership initiatives.
- At home, I give my children voice to share their thoughts, I observe their areas of interests and push them into the directions where they can practice and grow their passions.
As Victor Frankl taught us, “our worst experiences can be our best teachers, catalyzing unforeseen discoveries and opening us up to new possibilities and perspectives.”
Yes, I learned in darkness. I also got out of the dark side.
Our starting point to our Mentoring journeys are unique to all of us. By leaning onto our stories to feel whilst pointing our shoes in the direction of creating a better environment for our future generations to grow, we should all learn to share our stories.
This story I shared above is very personal to me. For many years, I felt ashamed to tell others my years in the dark. Only by putting myself forward to write this with a purpose to help others, did I realize how much self-healing I am personally getting. My courage to share this was fueled by my bigger hope to inspire many of us to learn from darkness, as well as to find ways to add colors to our world.