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Welcome to your second, official “Mentorship Monday,” TPS readers! Today, we’re pleased to announce the 2nd Place Winner of our writing contest – Eric Bleuel, a Paralegal from Los Angeles, California. We loved Eric’s creative and interesting take on the various types of mentors a person should seek out. We hope you enjoy reading his article as much as we did. Just imagine — a cafeteria serving up more than just cream pie (Mmmmmm…says the TPS crew). Not sure what the whole “cafeteria mentor” concept is all about? Check out this article!
When I began thinking of the “Perfect Mentor,” I imagined a person with all of the traits, knowledge and wisdom that I wished I had for myself. I envisioned him or her to be a guidance counselor, a teacher and a coach all rolled-into-one. The “Perfect Mentor” would be someone who actually cared about me and genuinely wanted me to succeed in life.
The sad thing is, I don’t have a “Perfect Mentor.” In fact, I don’t think I ever will. Sure, I’ve got a few (we’ll call them experienced, instead of older) friends and acquaintances that have special knowledge in areas that I’m interested in. But, I don’t have anyone in my life that acts as my personal and professional guardian angel. I don’t have anyone that takes me to lunch once a month to see how I’m doing. I don’t seem to know that one special person that is an expert in ALL the fields that matter to me.
Or do I? Maybe I’m asking for too much out of one person. Maybe, I need to be willing to compromise the free lunch. Maybe, it’s time to think outside of the box on this one.
When I came to the conclusion that I needed to start thinking in new direction, the first thing I thought of was John Belushi. John Belushi played a character, Bluto, in a movie called Animal House. In one of the scenes from the movie, Bluto was standing in line at a cafeteria. It was a really funny scene because he was grabbing at everything the cafeteria line had to offer and the food was going all over the place.
Just like Bluto, who was grabbing a variety of foods for his plate, we as paralegals, need to select a variety of mentors to help us succeed. Here are five kinds of mentors you should have on your “Mentor Cafeteria Tray.”
Google or another Internet search engine should be first on your tray and should take up a considerable amount of space. Google, although not a real person, is a link to information that is posted by a real people. It’s like having access to a billion mentors instantly.
I’m not sure how I learned how to do anything or find anything before the days of the Internet. It’s amazing how quick and easy it is to find information and how vital it is to our jobs as paralegals. So my suggestion is to not only use Google, but make it convenient and accessible too.
If you don’t have a smart phone you should seriously consider getting one. Just like I couldn’t remember how life was before the Internet, now that I have a smart phone I don’t remember how I lived without having Google at my fingertips 24/7.
Mr./Ms. Inside the Office Mentor
Let’s be real. Google is great, but it doesn’t know everything. For instance, it doesn’t know anything about the office you work in, specifically the inter office relationships and office politics. Therefore, it’s important to have a mentor on the inside. Find someone who not only gives you good accurate information, but won’t stab you in the back if given the opportunity. Find that one person that you can trust, build upon that relationship and use him or her to guide you through the social aspects of your office. Trust me, if you look hard enough, there’s one out there right now.
Mr./Ms. Outside the Office Mentor
You also need to find a person that can give you advice and guidance who works in the legal field but NOT in your office. You need a different perspective from a different environment. This relationship will help foster innovation in your work and keep your mind fresh with new ideas. It can also give you a person to vent your frustrations to when you need it.
Mr./Ms. Virtual Social Network Mentor
Next, on your tray, you need someone from Cyberspace. You need to find a social network like oh, I don’t know, LinkedIn (ya think?) and form a relationship (or two, or three). This like any other relationship takes an investment of a little time and energy. But the beauty about Cyberspace relationships is that time stands still between communications. This allows you to think about what you are going to say before you say it. I wish I had this with my other relationships. There would be a lot less “open mouth, insert foot” moments. Plus, social networking allows you to actually search for that mentor that can fit your needs. LinkedIn and the like are amazing for this. Use it to your advantage.
The Parental Mentor
Lastly, and probably most importantly, you need room on your “Mentor Tray” for a mentor that can give you parental advice. You need someone who honestly cares about your well-being personally and professionally. You need someone who can see from a distance where you are, where you are headed and tell you the honest truth when you need it, without being offensive.
These mentors are priceless. You don’t find them on the Internet, they probably aren’t in your office (but they might be) and they are worth their weight in gold. If you are lucky your parental mentor is, well . . . your parent. If your parents have passed, or are unavailable to you for whatever reason, you still need someone in your life that can help guide you in this area.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where to find this person. You need to find him or her on your own. It could be an old teacher, a pastor, a friend, or a member of your extended family. Whoever they are, hold them close to you and treat them with the respect they deserve. They are one-in-a-million.
My message, in case it got lost in the shuffle, is to not settle for just one person as your mentor. Seek out a variety of mentors from a variety of sources. Think of John Belushi taking some of everything in the cafeteria line. But the difference is, when John Belushi was grabbing his food and putting it on his plate he was doing it wild and crazy style and he made a big mess. We should be more careful and deliberate when picking our mentors. If we can do this, and spread the wealth of knowledge over a wider spectrum we will be greatly rewarded.
So don’t just stand there, get your tray and start filling it up!
The author of this article is Eric Bleuel. He lives in Ventura, California. He is a paralegal at Ventura County Counsel. His specialty is document production and trial presentation. He has a wife and three awesome little kids. He loves surfing and spending time with his family.
Hey TPS readers – Are there any other types of mentors you’d like to add to the ole’ cafeteria tray list? (Admitedly, I’m still dreaming about the cream pie and it’s only 9 am…)
Wishing you an absolutely spectacular and crisis-free day in paralegal land. Well…at least there is some hope for the first part of that working out for you! Any sentence containing the words “paralegal land” and “crisis-free” seems like a bit of an oxymoron. We admit it.
We’ll see you Wednesday!