Janet sat across the table from me, a warm cup of coffee in each of our hands as I welcomed her to share a little more about herself. This was the beginning of a six-week mentorship in which I, a thirty-something, came to learn more about a fifty-something who found herself unemployed following decades of hard work.
Janet, a mother, widow and college graduate with a host of experience, was already working with an employment specialist at the Department of Labor. Her resume was impeccable. Her letters of reference provided insight into her exceptional work ethic. We met weekly, in-person or via phone, to discuss her job prospects. I was a listening ear for Janet as she voiced frustrations about rejections. Together we brainstormed ways to connect to the employers she was interested in working for.
Janet was prone to isolating herself and going days at a time without responding to calls or texts. She would return each of my inquiries in her own time. I never found my patience to wane or to question her sincerity. We forged ahead on the goal she outlined for herself: finding appropriate and meaningful employment that paid her a living wage.
In our time together, Janet was hired for three part-time jobs. Not ideal, but it was enough. Two of these jobs offered potential full-time employment. One of those was in line with Janet’s skillset and prior experience.
I feel like this narrative should conclude with some major revelation or storybook finale, but it doesn’t. She thanked me with an email for helping her during a really difficult time. It was good to know I had been helpful. I see this theme in my Dress for Success volunteerism: to help when needed, as needed; to not direct or guide, but to lift up the other and listen; and to take the time to learn. In mentorship, when we share about our experiences, our struggles, and our celebrations we can give another the perspective they need to take a positive step forward for their own life.