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Being a Mentee Changed My Life

Being a mentee changed my life. No, really, it did! It helped put me on the career path of my dreams, I made close connections I will have for a lifetime, and I learned so much about myself along the way.

I came to Colorado Access as the customer service auditor. This role was added to the list of other jobs I had before that didn’t truly align with my passions – just what I happened to be good at. My boss at the time was very enthusiastic about helping her team create career and professional goals. She asked me what I really wanted out of my career. We talked about my desire for teaching a bit, but also started exploring what “teaching” opportunities I could get into within Colorado Access. She helped me open my eyes to the world of learning and development (L&D)! As part of my career plan, I interviewed all the team members of L&D to get a better idea of what someone in this field would need in their toolbelt.

Enter the mentorship program. One of the L&D team members mentioned that they had developed a mentorship program here at Colorado Access and the next round of mentors and mentees were about to be selected. She suggested I apply so I could connect with a mentor who could then help guide me in my career goals. So, that’s just what I did! That same day, I applied for the mentorship program. I gave a little bit of background into my personality and what I was hoping to achieve; skills that would make me a better candidate for a position in learning and development.

The selection process of pairing mentors with mentees is done by a committee. As part of your application, you can list who you would like to be paired with, but your request is not guaranteed to be fulfilled. My request was just someone, anyone, on the L&D team. When they emailed me with who my mentor was, I was shocked…and thrilled! I had been paired with the DIRECTOR of the L&D team, Jen Recla!

I was so excited, and nervous, and overwhelmed, and did I mention nervous? I had interacted with directors before and even met Jen before, but I had a list of goals a mile long and wasn’t sure where to start! I wanted to: improve my networking, learn to be more even in my demeanor, work on my communication skills, work on my active listening skills, work on giving and receiving feedback, work on my confidence and imposter syndrome, work on the next steps for my career…the list goes on and on. I probably overwhelmed Jen with my giant list on our first official mentor/mentee meeting. We spent the first few sessions trying to narrow down that list and finally settled on what the next steps in my career should be. I expressed to her my love of teaching and my interest in the L&D field, so we started there.

To get into the career path I really wanted, Jen showed me courses in LinkedIn Learning, got me signed up for more internal classes like Crucial Conversations and Influencer, and showed me resources on the Association for Talent Development (ATD) website. We talked through training struggles I was having in my current position where I would train new customer service reps on our auditing program and had me explore different facilitation styles. She helped me build my own website for my resume and examples of my work. But I think the most impactful work we did was finding my strengths and what gives me energy.

She had me take several assessments: StrengthsFinder, Working Genius, Enneagram, and StandOut; all to help me get to better know myself. We found that my wish to be a teacher closely aligns to many of my results from these assessments. We also found the analytical work I was currently doing was draining my energy and causing burnout.

We met virtually most times, but my favorite meetings were when we met for coffee or lunch. There was just more of a connection when meeting in person. She was kind, warm, and truly cared about me and my success. She was excited to hear about my progress, my assessment results, my successes, and my failures.

When a job opening for the L&D coordinator became available, Jen encouraged me to apply (although I was already on it like a bloodhound). I asked if it would be a conflict of interest since I would be applying to be on her team and she and I now had a close relationship being mentor/ mentee. She let me know that it would be up to everyone on the team to decide who to hire, so there was no bias. I jumped on the chance.

In short, my mentor is now my boss. I couldn’t be more thrilled! The skills and insights into myself, my needs, and my wants are what helped get me my job. Without her guidance as a mentor, I would not be in this position that I love, and which fuels me every day! I no longer dread going to work. I no longer feel like I will be stuck in a career path I didn’t want for the rest of my life. I owe a lot to our mentorship program and to my amazing mentor.