by Kristin Walsh
When I decided to begin a contributing to this blog, my first move (if you don't count the standard move of every Millennial to first "Google" it) was to email a long time mentor and ask for advice. I hit send and within minutes my phone buzzed. I jumped to get it, assuming the answer on the other end would ease all of my anxiety. Instead of a response, it was a text from a college student that I mentor asking me for advice on a letter she was sending to a prospective employee. I paused momentarily to consider the situation and shifted seamlessly from a girl full of her own insecurities and anxieties to a woman with years of experience and an easy flow of advice. In a way, that phone call did ease my anxiety and remind me of my own value.
Being a mentor is as important as having a mentor and the happy ground of being somewhere in the middle.
On having a mentor
I once heard someone say, "The person I am today is a reflection of all the people who have made the decision to mentor me throughout my life." This is profoundly true of us all. We are the product not only of our professional mentors but of our families, teachers, friends, coworkers, and role models. We spend our lives learning through the emulation of others and choosing to focus on developing the traits we value in those people. And when it comes to our careers, it's important to keep that diversity in your mentor mix. You never know where the best advice and inspiration will come from.
Having professional mentors throughout my career has had some quantifiable benefits. I can list the times my colleagues from firms I interned at have given me advice on everything from finding the right jobs to apply for to negotiating raises and finding my work/life balance. They have made calls on my behalf to introduce me to industry leaders, they have reviewed my portfolios and resumes, they have recommended books/blogs/speakers and other events to help continue my growth and education, they have invited me to networking events across the state, and they have graciously acted as my references each time I apply for a new position. All of that has been career making but what my mentors have done for me goes much deeper than professional advice and references. Less quantifiable but of much more value, their support and genuine interest in my growth has instilled in me a confidence that I would have spent most of my life trying to find on my own.
Choosing to transition to Nimmo wasn’t a difficult decision for me. When Josh and I first discussed the possibility of my joining the firm, he laid out the things that I had at my current corporate job that a boutique firm couldn’t offer: high tech office, a company softball team, water cooler talk, etc. He then told me what he could offer was mentorship. For me, career satisfaction isn’t based on the office or the short-term benefits. I place value in the opportunities that I have to grow in my position and pursue my passions. That is exactly what I have at Nimmo, an opportunity to learn not only about design but also about running a firm, marketing, client relationship, and so much more. While learning all of this, I also have the chance to influence the development of the firm and take on a leadership role far sooner than I would have at a large firm. Getting into a great design firm when it’s still small gives you a real chance to grow in your firm and having someone there who is excited about taking you on as their mentee is priceless. When someone offers to go all in on me, I go all in on them and that makes the difference between a job and a career.
On being a mentor
The reasons I love architecture transcend my own firm. My passions for sustainable design, urban development, and the effect of our built environment on our culture are values that I want to continue to explore with my mentors as well as my mentees. These relationships with professionals outside of my own firm help me to contribute to a global conversation about the value of our profession. In this field of work, when I take the time to invest in future leaders, I am investing in my community and the world in which I will live.
Although I am new to the mentoring side of the relationship, there are plenty of things I have come to value about it. The first is that mentoring has kept me learning. My mentee has plenty of typical questions that I can see coming from miles away. I'm just not that far removed from my own graduation and immersion into the working world. But she has other questions for me that have caught me off guard and in doing so begun a great dialogue between us. Sometimes I know the answer but mostly I have been challenged to think for the first time about a question and develop my own ideas in order to answer her. This not only has taught me about myself, it has taught me about the values, concerns, and interests of students’ graduating today.
Staying up to date on the perspectives of someone younger than you puts you in position to become a stronger leader and gives insight into developing your firm culture. Although we are still a small firm, working with mentees outside of the office gives us insight into the interests of the upcoming generation and helps us to find, understand, and acquire new talent. As we grow, we hope that building relationships based on commitment to investing in each other will be the foundation of our design, client relationships, and firm culture. It’s two sided. Mentoring takes time but when we consider that time to be an investment, we believe it is the beginning of a long term approach that will lead to lasting relationships and continued intellectual growth for our firm. That is something we see as a win/win.
The happy ground of being in the middle
I believe it will always be important to be both a mentor and a mentee. There was a time for most of us as children when we thought adults knew everything. For years I waited anxiously for that moment of clarity when I became an adult and had all the answers. Instead, much like everyone else, I slowly came to the understanding that being an adult is less about being “all knowing” and more about having the experience, resources, and support to be able to figure things out the best you can.
At Nimmo, we understand the importance of mentoring young associates and provide an exceptional amount of education and transparency in regards to our operations. It is our goal to teach the fundamentals that will serve as a strong foundation for a career in architecture. This level of mentorship not only helps young associates to grow in their career, it also builds personal relationships that serve as the foundation of our firm culture.
We also understand the importance having mentors ourselves; to always be learning, growing, and stretching our comfort zone through relationships with the people we aspire to emulate while doing the same by coming to understand ourselves and the needs of our firm through our relationships with each other. After all, you can acquire years of experience and knowledge and even become an expert in your field, but having a mentor isn’t something that you grow out of. For every stage of your life, finding people who share your passion, are interested in growing with you, and are there to share in your successes can make all the difference.
Mentorship is the one of the foundations that we are growing the firm on. If you are interested in joining Nimmo, we are currently hiring! Please send your portfolio and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you want to know more about us? I’m happy to share my experiences at Nimmo, you can email me directly at email@example.com.