On the impact of mentors and friends!

They say some people come into our lives for a short time, and others stay for a lifetime. But even if they were only in our lives for a very short time, that doesn’t mitigate the impact they’ve had on us. These can be professional influences, such as a research mentor or supervisor in the workplace, or a personal friend who can both enjoy our successes and help us navigate difficult situations.  

In a professional sense, we all need role models to help guide in our journey, especially when switching fields or careers as is often the case. I greatly value the mentors and supervisors that I’ve had over the years, both within and outside the laboratory. My graduate advisor taught me many valuable skills that I still use today, both in terms of keeping organized and working diligently, but also improving professional skills of writing and presentations. She was also a valuable resource for professional research advice, and I will always carry that with me into the workplace. This type of impact can play a critical role in our professional future. 

Other mentors at the university who guided my career path and provided advice impacted my thinking about various career options, which I would have never discovered otherwise, including their own. Peers within academia impacted my feelings of belonging in the community, and their advice was invaluable for contemplating future directions. One of the great benefits of impact that someone can have is, therefore, allowing us to be ourselves and help us think through potential decisions. In that sense, their impact is manifested merely by being there to listen. 

Good mentors understand the importance of guiding others down the path that works for them, and know that their role is not to impose a certain direction. They are someone who can be trusted with professional and sometimes even personal matters, and whom we feel we can confide in and lean on for a useful perspective. 

Such professional mentors and role models are critical to lean back on when life throws curveballs at us. Circumstances with seemingly negative impacts can turn into positive directions, which other people can highlight for us. Various factors can steer our course, such as jobs we applied for and didn’t get, moving to another city with different opportunities, or other circles we may find ourselves in that reveal qualities we didn’t know we had. Impact in this sense happens through negative circumstances that can be positive in the end. 

In a personal sense, in addition to mentors, it is important to have a strong support system. Within this, certain individuals such as friends can have more of an impact on us than others. When going through difficult situations, a friend who can re-frame our thoughts into positive ones is also a useful type of impact. Feeling that you are not alone in your situation can have a tremendously positive impact.

While the above examples show different types of impact which can come from specific directions, sometimes one person comes into our lives that has a strong impact on multiple fronts. And it need not be someone whom we expect. It may not be a more senior mentor or peer individual that you work with, but a friend with less life experience whose insights you may not realize the value of until long into the future. Sometimes we connect with people who can really understand us, and the impact of their words is not always realized until later. 

We must be grateful for everyone who comes into our lives and has a positive impact, as well as for the negative impacts that we experience, for both of those can steer us in the right direction. We must also listen to those who can truly relate to us and whose impact we may feel long into the future. 

This post represents my personal views and not the views of my employer.