Mentoree (?!)

Mentoree. Wait, no, it’s Mentoree. No, still not right: Mentoree. No, that’s definitely not a word. Why can’t I say this word? Nicole gently corrects me – mentee. Oh, Mentee! I am a Mentee! Wait, I am a Mentee? That can’t be right, but I run the two words through my head again. Mentor. Mentee. Yes, those are the two choices. And I am standing behind Door Number 2. 

How did that happen?!

I am accomplished! I am a leader! I have lots of experience! (No, I am not going to tell you exactly how much experience, then you would think I am old and not want to give me a job, but believe me, I have a lot of really quite excellent experience.) I should be mentoring people, not the other way around. Right? Well, no. Wrong. 

I don’t have a big ego, I can admit when I need help, I believe life has many stages and they are all worthwhile stages, even the in-between, transitional stages, like the one in which I currently find myself. So I take a deep breath – I am a Mentee. 

I embrace the idea of being a Mentee. That’s easy, as I have an excellent Mentor in the PWN Mentor Program, which in itself is excellent, offering a lot of resources and support to all participants – mentors and mentees alike. But how does one do a really good job at being a Mentee? Because believe me, I am going to be the best mentee there has ever been. For better or worse, that has always been my approach – give me a task, and I want to be the best at it. 

(And in fact, this has not always worked out for the better. After we had our first child, I was going to be the best Mother - yes, mother with a capital M - in the History of Motherhood. You can guess how that went over; my son unfortunately had not embraced the idea of being the best Son in the history of Son-hood, but that’s a story for another day.) 

But back to being a Mentee. The mechanics are easy. Explain my goal to my mentor and ask for advice, take advice, reach goal. And this part is easy – I have a clearly defined goal (get a job!), and even know the broad outline of how to get there. But the problem isn’t in the outline I write, but in that squishy how-do-I-identify-myself space hovering between Roman Numeral I and II. To get a job one must profess to have skills and expertise, with recent, concrete, examples. So how did I prove my ‘talents and skills’ when my experience in Corporate America (in NYC, nonetheless!) are 16 years in the past? And all my experience since then – 10 years running a start up (after a pause to be the greatest mother in the world), and then teaching Business English and doing editing work – while leaving me with a long list of transferable skills - does not translate into the ‘three years experience in Corporate Communications’ listed on every job posting. Arghh! 

I spend my days feeling like one of those holograms you used to get in the bottom of a cereal box that changes depending how you bend it – ‘excellent multi-talented leader with years of experience’/‘newbie with absolutely no experience in the new field I wish to transition to’. And this just keeps repeating in my head in an endless loop – Yay - ‘e m-t-l w/YoE’; then Darn -  ‘n w/no ab-fab E’. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. 

So where does this leave me? I am a Mentee, so I take the advice, diligently. I make lists, I write outlines, I up my LinkedIn-networking game. And I embrace being two things at once – a professional with years of experience, and a beginner ready to dive into a new career, and my new identity: Experienced-multi-talented-newbie. 

And slowly, slowly, with the help of my mentor I make progress. Babysteps, one-stepforward, fall down, get-up and try again progress. I come to each meeting with tasks completed since our last meeting. My old identity falls away and a new one begins to form. I embrace some ideas and fight others, and I realize that some ideas that I thought I had embraced I had actually outright rejected, or at least ignored.

My recent ‘huge’ epiphany in mid-February, when I decided to rewrite my resume as a ‘Corporate Communications’ expert? My mentor suggested that in our very first meeting – October 18th. (I know this because I have it in my outline of the notes from our first meeting. There are always outlines.) My mentor is clearly a Saint – capital ‘S’. 


At the time of writing, it's March 25th. We are in Day 11 (by my count) of Corona-quarantine and I am, at the advice of my mentor, finally crafting articles to build up my portfolio of recent, concrete examples of my writing (I also offered my services as a volunteer proof reader for PWN Global, by way of a thank you nod to PWN for providing me with my own, personal Saint, capital 'S'!). Stay tuned! 


Author: Kathryn McDaniel Nenning, PWN Global Proofreader, and PWN Vienna Member
Date: April 2020

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