Friday, November 1, 2013

Editor's Message: Giving Thanks To Our Mentors

By Rena Upshaw-Frazier

The fall season seems to be the time of year that we all become acutely aware of things for which we are thankful. We reflect, outwardly and internally, on gratitude for our family and friends, our careers and jobs, and of course the necessities that we have –food, shelter, and clothing. Recently, I was fortunate to have an experience that opened my eyes to a gift that is of great importance to me but for which I had rarely “given thanks.” I share this with you so that you may add it to your “thank you” list this season, if you have not already done so.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I believe that mentors and champions are important in all aspects of life – but particularly in one’s career. Those lucky enough to have mentors who are engaged and involved understand the opportunities for learning, growth, and progression that such relationships can provide. As Isaac Newton is often credited as writing: “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Mentors, through their experience and guidance, help us to see further and to become the people, colleagues, partners, and community members we strive to be.

A short time ago, one of my mentors retired. As part of the retirement celebration, someone had the idea of putting together a memento from those who wished to express their gratitude for the things this person had done to enrich their careers or lives. In essence, it was a formal “thank you” package, filled with personal gifts and messages.

As I prepared my message, I realized that it was the first time I was outwardly thanking this person for investing in me, my career, and my goals. I had thanked this person for isolated events, such as for sharing inspiring articles or for introducing me to a certain person. But I had not said “thank you” for the time. I was glad to now have the opportunity; however, I felt remiss that I had not done it sooner. I had taken it for granted that this mentor, and my other mentors, knew that I was thankful for their time and counsel.

Although my mentor’s retirement has not meant the end of our relationship, it has lessened the frequency of our casual conversations during which I would seek the advice. Such discussions now take more planning, but I am thankful that we still have the opportunity to talk. 

This year, as we enjoy this season of giving thanks for the things that we have and appreciate, let us remember to thank our mentors for allowing us to stand on their shoulders so that we may see further. Now is as good a time as any.