The past year has been difficult, but we do not experience the hardship alone. Throughout my career, I have understood the value of a good mentor, and this year, mentorship has been a necessity.
I recently reconnected with one of my best friends from college, a fellow lawyer, wife, mother of toddlers who lives in Miami. For the last decade of both of our careers, we relied upon coworkers, members of local professional associations and other local connections for all or most of career or mentorship needs. But during the pandemic, which sent almost everyone into some sort of isolation, barriers previously created by distance were removed. As you think about facilitating your own mentorship model and journey, here are a few items to think about.
Use virtual tools to help the mentorship process. Increased use of virtual connections created a new sort of normal and led me to form a new mentor relationship with someone almost 1,200 miles away. While there is no real replacement for sharing a cup of coffee in person with a mentor and gaining valuable advice, distance is no longer a barrier to creating a connection with someone who could serve as a valuable mentor. Keep this in mind if there is someone you want to connect with and haven’t in the past.
Find the right mentor. Throughout my career, my mentors have been both women and men, peers and bosses. At the beginning, I searched and relied upon mentors who were much more senior and emulated a professional life that I desired. It was important for me to learn from these mentors to advance in my career. Currently, relying upon mentors who are in the same trenches as I am works best for me. With an overwhelming number of women stepping back from careers due to the pandemic, it is more important than ever to support one another and look to a mentor who can understand and empathize with your situation.
Understand how female mentorship can work to narrow the gender gap. Domestic responsibilities, childcare, and lack of equal pay still largely affect women, and this disparate distribution of responsibilities and resources has been brought to the forefront during the pandemic. Although this area has improved over time, many professional careers or executive positions are still largely held by men. As women in these fields, it is important to rely upon one another to continue to close the gender and maternal gap that exists. One of the most valuable ways to advance this issue is being accountable to one another and sharing resources to help keep each other sane.
Instill accountability in your workplace. Another important focus for me is to work at a law firm that values family and its attorneys’ personal lives outside of the office. Perez Morris is a certified women-owned business that employs 62 percent women. My boss — and another mentor — is also a female lawyer and a mother of young children. Being able to discuss the complications of my life outside of the firm with someone in leadership who understands firsthand is vitally important to me.
Mentorship evolves and changes with time and circumstance. At times, it can be about staying the course and surviving; at other times, it can be a focus for growth, development and necessary change. Most important, it is apparent now, more than ever, that distance should not serve as a barrier to a necessary and valuable connection.
Celia Schnupp is an attorney at Perez Morris