The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Pay It Forward

Posted by Seeking Solace |

This post is in honor of International Women's Day. 

When I was in law school, I was a graduate assistant in the undergraduate academic advising office. My supervisor was a wonderful woman who became my first mentor. She taught me many things, and not just those things that were needed to do the job. She taught me about navigating the big, bad world as a woman. She showed me how to be assertive without being aggressive, being feminine without the world perceiving you as weak, and the importance of treating my sisters with dignity and respect, regardless of what paths we choose to take.

My next mentor was an attorney named Kate. Kate was one of the partners at the first law firm I worked as an newly admitted attorney. Kate was, and still is, a brilliant attorney, who didn't take any shit from anyone. She was also a stunning beauty who embraced fashion. She taught me that being a female attorney in a primary male dominated field doesn't mean you have to lose your femininity. Like Leah, Kate showed me how to be assertive, tough as nails professional who know how to play the game with the boys and gain respect by them. Plus, I credit her with releasing my inner fashion diva! And, like Leah, Kate insisted that I pay forward the wisdom that she gave me.

Yesterday, Junior Colleague stopped by my office to talk. She has been going through a rough patch lately. I knew that there were some rumblings from those higher than me about her. She was in the new Assistant Dean's office last week and left sobbing. I wanted to talk to her about what happened in that meeting, but I thought it would be best for her to come to me. Plus, I didn't want to pry.

Junior Colleague told me that during the meeting, she given a written warning about some issues involving an incident with a student. She said she left the meeting crying because it just seemed like everyone higher up was against her. She felt like she was being attacked and worried that she may lose her job.

I knew this pattern well. I've seen it in the legal and academic professions. Someone is waiting for her to make the smallest mistake and use it to justify firing her. While I didn't have concrete proof that this was the case, all the signs pointed in that direction. What I knew for sure was that if this is the path she is on, there is nothing that I can do in my capacity to save her. Sadly, she had pissed off the wrong person. And, that person was ready to pounce.

I told her that while I didn't know anything about whether or not she was on the chopping block, what I did know is that she needed to be very careful. Don't give those in power any reason, no matter how small, to make things worse for you.We proceeded to talk about the incidents that were the subject of the meeting. I explained to her what she needed to do to get her side of the story on the record. We also talked about how she needed to play the game from here on out. I told her that it may not be an end game situation yet. But, she needed to make sure that she understands that this is a game and there are rules. I explained to her the rules of the game, just as Leah and Kate had done for me on many occasions. I gave her all my wisdom in the hope that she will follow my advice.  She gave me a hug and thanked me for listening and giving her the advice. She appreciated having a mentor like me.

And I reminded her, just as Leah and Kate reminded me, to make sure to pay it forward someday.


feMOMhist said...

love it, where would we all be without the peeps who told us the shit no one ever writes down or puts in a grad school class, where the bodies are buried, who not to cross, where the boundaries are!

Seeking Solace said...

Thank you! I truly believe it's our duty to pass on the wisdom1

rented life said...

And of course we all know you pay forward your fashion sense :)

The best piece of (work)advice I got from my mentors: get it in writing.

Rebecca said...

I am so glad there are women like you, and your mentors, who do this. Who help younger women understand this. But, as an older woman - one who read about the birth of the modern feminist movement in the very 1st issue of Ms. magazine during my first year of college almost exactly 40 years ago - I am a little sad that this knowledge is still necessary, and not just a given. Keep up the good fight, you are such a great example to follow.

Alice said...

Wow, that's awesome that you were able to support her!

Ink said...

So great.