Dr. Cheryl Woodson

Musings on Monday MENTORING: Giving Young People Hand Up

A young man drove me to the airport this weekend and blessed me; even though I was a stranger, he trusted me enough to share his career fears. He was so dejected about his future even though he had a BA in Political Science from a major university. He thought that had been “stupid” choice. He also beat himself up for taking time off during school and graduating at the “old” age 26 instead of 22. He’d worked in several states, and described the many “random” jobs he’d had, all of which were fascinating to me. He had worked with people from all over the world. He had great dreams, but shot down each one as he shared it with me. He seemed paralyzed about how to begin and worried about the time commitment for each possible path.

They say that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real, but this young man had NO evidence. He “knew” it wouldn’t work, but hadn’t investigated and seemed afraid to take steps to find out. I believe that he is not alone. His generation doesn’t seem to know how to “connect the dots,” network, or strategize the way we do, and this job market makes that kind of work even more important today.

Do you know any young people like this man? Give them your time. Listen. Encourage. Help them learn how to spin circumstances into positives, and show them how to network.
I reassured this young man that he has a strong foundation for the future he dreams of. Where he said, stupid, “I said, “broad-based,“ When he said, “older,” I said, “more mature, more focused.” I changed “random” to “varied, well-rounded, and eclectic.” I told him, “Courage is not the absence of fear,” and outlined several steps he might take to found his decisions on information (including contacting the career guidance office and the alumni association of his college.) I also reminded him that he would be the same age in several years, whether he went after his dreams, or not, and that these are supposed to be the “dues-paying” years.

Before he drove away, I gave him a card and invited him to stay in touch. I meant that. Today’s young adults have greater challenges than we did: the current economy, the level of their educational debt, and their delay in learning to take responsbility for their own finances (they rely on the lifestyles of older adults who WILL pass away.) These young people often find that the bottom is closer, more slippery and more sticky than it was for us.

None of us did this alone, and young adults really need us. I’ve had, and continue to have so many powerful mentors. I am honored to be one of his. Go mentor someone.

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