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By: Heidi Heard (Guest Blogger)
Welcome back to The Paralegal Society, my sleepy eyed friends! It’s Monday. Woo hoo! Today, we’re featuring another Honorable Mention from our recent writing contest on mentorship. This article was written by Heidi Heard, an aspiring paralegal from North Carolina. We love that this article shares a lot of terrific insight into the importance of mentorship, along with some great, practical, real-life examples. So sip that delightful, caffeinated beverage sitting before you, and see what you can learn about finding your “True North!”
noun \ˈmen-ˌtȯr, -tər\v
Latin, from Greek Mentōr
First Known Use: 1616
1: capitalized: a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus’ son Telemachus
2a: a trusted counselor or guide
As I first set out on this journey to become a qualified paralegal, I considered it vital to the success of the endeavor to discover a group of like minded people. The exchange of professional opinions, educational guidance, along with a dash of wit and wisdom, would need to be an essential part of what I would “pack” to start this new career course (or as the biblical scripture reads in Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpening Iron”). Without a doubt, I knew I needed a mentor, someone who had traveled this pathway before me.
Most of us have at one time or another had someone we’ve looked up to, who has seen enough promise in us, to provide guidance and a listening ear; a mentor. As Stacy Allison, the first American woman to summit Mt. Everest was quoted as saying, “When one team member succeeds, the entire team succeeds”. This, I believe, is at the core of why mentoring is vitally important to any profession. It creates an environment that fosters professional accountability, motivates us to seek higher standards, and simply put, inspires.
The Merriam-Webster’s definition of a mentor is one who is a “trusted counselor or guide”. Who is your “trusted counselor or guide”? Who inspires you to “see the hope that is inside of yourself”, as Oprah Winfrey asked the question of her television audience?
Mentors don’t necessarily have to be professional business people in order to motivate or inspire us. They don’t always consist of a heroic athlete such as Stacy Allison. In fact my first mentor, the one person who encouraged me to “see the hope inside myself”, is my mother. Likewise, fathers, sisters, brothers, teachers, coaches and other individuals who are willing to take the time to share that spark of enthusiasm, knowledge and wisdom with us become our role models along the way. They influence us to see beyond ourselves, and give us a clearer 360 degree picture of the goal, but perhaps more importantly, the mission.
Paralegal traveling companion: the mentor is not really telling you anything that you don’t already know in your heart, but rather, they educate and confirm, setting a firm foundation underneath you. When others are telling you “it can’t be done”, or are attempting to tear down your self-worth, the mentor picks up the mentee, dusts them off and says “you know you can do this, you just need to believe that you can, and go do it!”
The mentor also understands that there is more to this shared learning experience, than simply the instruction itself. In the movie “Karate Kid”, Mr. Miyage, the wise Japanese teacher and mentor of aspiring karate student Daniel-san, talks with him about the karate lesson they just had. Daniel-san is frustrated, because he doesn’t understand that he is being instructed in more than just basic karate skills. Mr. Miyage, sensing Daniel-san’s frustration, says “You remember lesson about balance?” Daniel-san replies, “yeah”. Mr. Miyagi wisely teaches, “Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life.Whole life have a balance. Everything better. Understand?”
Perhaps you have had a mentor – someone who has brought balance and perspective into your life? Most recently, I have been very fortunate to have found, quite by coincidence, some wonderful people within The Paralegal Society network, who have shared their own experiences, education, wit and wisdom. Many of them have become my “trusted counselors and guides,” and I am thankful for their helpfulness. At times, when my faith was struggling to find its True North, my new career path uncertain, my focus was recalibrated by some very supportive and intuitive individuals on TPS, as well as a few folks in my personal life. My “ship” now back on course, I remind myself of why I chose to become a paralegal in the first place. No glam, no glory, just simply to be of help, of service to others.
The mentor brings you back to square one. They ask questions that you should be asking yourself, but don’t dare ask because you may be afraid of the answer. One minute you are bold and fearless. The next minute, you are cowering in the corner due to an unthoughtful person who may have tried to intimidate you or discredit you or perhaps the classes, seminars, and educational material seems like a “mountain” that is just too daunting to climb. This is where our mentor guide helps us to look, once again, at our Paralegal map to remind us of where we are going and why.
Football coach Tony Dungy said, “You will be known by what you model for others.” I have no doubt that at some point in the future, I too will be called to mentor someone who is full of questions and zealous to become a credible paralegal professional. The mentors that I have been fortunate to be associated with will be my “models”, and in turn, I will pass along their knowledge and guidance to someone else.
At this point, I am just beginning my paralegal journey. However, when I look at what spearheaded this decision, it reminds me of the people I will help along the way and the purpose behind it all. At one point in my life, I found a person who became my mentor regarding patient’s rights, and true to the intent of this story, he really sparked my interest in solving patient care issues that went beyond the typical hospital or clinic level. I knew I had something to bring to the table to help others, and knew this was something I had to do. I became a Patient Advocate, like my mentor. However, the story only begins here.
My focus now turns toward specific legal issues of healthcare and patient rights.That is why I choose to become a Paralegal. I can no longer sit by the sidelines and be limited by what I cannot do. I am thankful for those mentors who can see this too, as they patiently keep redirecting my path, when I lose my way. A good mentor will be there to help you find your True North, every step of the way.
Heidi Heard Davis is a Patient Advocate/Health Law Researcher and aspiring Paralegal student. She is originally from Charlotte, North Carolins, but considers herself an “Austinite” having lived in Austin, Texas most of her life. She is the mom to an incredibly artistic teenager, dog-food provider to her Grand Old Lady Golden Retriever. She love the beach, Starbucks Pike Place coffee, Atlanta Braves Baseball, and traveling to historic Lighthouses along the eastcoast.
Heidi’s previous experience was as a Patient Advocate and Health Law Research Assistant, collaborating with healthcare providers and insurance entities, educating the patient and providing time essence solutions.
Most recently, she began contemplating her path for entry into the paralegal field, in order to provide more specific answers and help for patients attempting to navigate the “maze” of the healthcare system. She is looking forward to the journey…
Be sure to check back in later this week, TPSers! We’ve got some great articles planned over the next few weeks covering a vast array of legal topics. We’ve been busy (behind the scenes) cultivating new material just for you! Yep – you! We’ll be coming at you full fury with lots of interesting legal tidbits and information, so buckle up, my paralegal friends!
We’ll see you soon.