By Elizabeth Usovicz, Rotary International director-elect
When I speak with Rotary members about the importance of mentoring future leaders, I often hear, “I would love to be a mentor, but I don’t have the time.”
My response is a question and this story.
When was the last time you created a mentoring moment?
Last year, I participated in a networking event for students at a local university. The goal was for them to practice introducing themselves to business professionals, engage in conversation for a few minutes, and transition politely into another conversation.
One of the students I met was studying fashion merchandising. I asked how she became interested in merchandising, and she told me, “It started with a mistake I made at work.”
She worked part-time in an upscale department store, selling women’s apparel. One day, a customer bought the outfit that a mannequin was wearing. Rather than leave an undressed mannequin on the sales floor, the student selected and dressed the mannequin in a new outfit.
Creating a mentoring moment
When she reported to work the following week, she was summoned to a meeting with the regional buyer for women’s clothing. “I thought I was in trouble, that I was going to lose my job,” the student told me. Instead, the buyer turned the meeting into a mentoring moment. The buyer explained that clothing selections for store mannequins were a corporate decision – and also, that the clothing she selected was selling well.
The buyer told the student that she had talent, informed her about the fashion merchandising program at the university, and encouraged her to apply. The buyer continues to take brief moments to mentor and encourage the student. “She wants to hire me when I complete my degree,” she told me proudly.
Mentoring moments are memorable and empowering
Her story was the most memorable introduction I heard that day – but what impressed me even more was the forward-thinking buyer. She not only recognized the student’s talent, but also had the courage and confidence in her own abilities to take the intentional step to be a mentor and role model. She set an example for the student, who hopefully will see herself as a mentor and role model for other young women as she progresses in her own career.
This mentoring moment is relevant to Rotary.
We are all potential role models and mentors for young Rotary and Rotaract members. It takes our intention, not our time, to recognize and encourage their talents in our in-person and virtual interactions.
Young leaders are watching and learning from the things we think, say, and do. Mentoring moments are an empowering step in opening opportunities for this next generation of talented Rotary leaders.
About the author: Elizabeth Usovicz is a member of the Rotary Club of Kansas City-Plaza, Missouri, USA, and Rotary International director-elect for Zones 30 and 31. She was a honoree at the White House in 2014.
Research has found that clubs with mentor programs have a better time retaining members. Take the Mentoring Basics course in the learning center to learn the benefits and responsibilities of mentoring adult professionals.