In your quest for career success, suppose you had to choose just one of the following: perfectly-honed skills, ideal opportunities, or someone who really believes in you. Which would you pick?
This is the question a friend recently posed, thinking it would spark an interesting debate. She was disappointed that this wasn’t a more intriguing or meaty topic for me. Or perhaps she was surprised that someone who’s dedicated her professional life to training and learning wouldn’t have automatically picked door #1. Without even thinking, I responded with what I know in my soul… that having someone who honestly and truly believes in you trumps everything.
I was fortunate enough to find such a person early in my career. Beverly Marsh was the master teacher who hired me at age 19 to instruct high school vocational education classes. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Her belief gave me the confidence to build the skills, create the opportunities, take the risks, and ultimately realize tremendous success. She opened the door with her belief and then walked me through it with her modeling, mentoring, coaching, and support.
Rather than detailing her role and contributions, I’ll share a letter I sent to her a few years ago as part of a gratitude project.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since you hired me to teach an ROP class. What’s even harder to believe is the impact that decision would have – for decades to come.
I can’t adequately express the depth of my gratitude to you for the very special role you played in my life. Your willingness to hire me at my age and with my limited experience provided external validation at a time when I was particularly impressionable. Your support ignited a level of self-esteem that has served me well throughout my life and continues to do so today. Your confidence in me was a springboard for my confidence in myself.
Additionally, through your example, you taught me the value of positivity, appreciation, and recognition. Your consistently upbeat, positive approach to life – and its various challenges – was and continues to be an inspiration to me. You had a gift for magnifying the positive and I am grateful that I was able to watch and learn this from you at such a young age.
An extension of your positivity was your talent for appreciating and recognizing those around you. When in your presence, people always felt strong, capable, and valued. I believe that your ability to bring out the best in others was rooted in this skill. Thank you for applying it with me – and, more importantly – for modeling it so effectively over the period of time we worked together. It has had a lasting effect on my life, influencing my personality and how I interact with others.
I attribute a tremendous amount of my success – in business, marriage, parenting, friendships, community, and life – to you and what I learned from you. Thirty years ago, I remember thinking that you might be my fairy godmother. Today, I’m convinced that you were.
With love and admiration, Julie
Goethe wrote that “Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” But sometimes, that belief is inspired, sparked, instigated, coaxed, or conjured by the belief that someone else places there first.
What about you? Which would you choose: skills, opportunity, or someone who believed in you? Who has believed in you and what impact did it have?
Without a doubt, I would choose someone who believed in me. I was fortunate to work for a terrific boss and mentor in early HR career; I took a turn into Project Management and 4 years ago realized my heart is in HR and started over. My current HR manager is so similar to my first HR manager – they both believe in me and…I in them! Truly fortunate for them in my life. They both encourage life-long learning and a positive approach to life
I love hearing these stories, Karen. And it’s so great to see how their belief has not only inspired your own belief in yourself… but in them as well. What a constructive upward spiral of emotions. Thanks for passing this along!
I spent years believing I was not good at math. So much so that it limited many of my professional opportunities. A former boss said to me, “Beverly, I think you have a great sense of business. We need to develop that.” My response, “Oh no, I don’t DO math.” She laughed and said, “Maybe not, but you can do business.” She nurtured my business acumen and I went on to get my MBA with honors in a year and a half while working full-time and having two small kids and a husband at home. She stretched my thinking in ways never dreamed and helped lead me on the path I am today. Thank you Illiana!
Good for Illiana! And good for you for acting on her insights. Because anyone who knows you knows just how well you DO business, Beverly!
I am just waiting for this moment to come.. actually i don’t know how you felt when you expressed your gratitude to your mentor/leader (Beverly). But i am really happy to give my gratitude’s to you, ever since i saw your 1st tweet to me, stating that i have a good leader qualities and great willing power. i don’t know till that time do i really have such things in me. Thank you so much for believing me. and kept belief on my abilities.. i really want to be your student/assistant/buddy.. you name it.. such a great mentor you are. Once again Gratitude’s from bottom of my heart.
Thank you, Praveen. I’m delighted that our paths have crossed. The beautiful thing I’ve discovered over time is that mentoring occurs simultaneously in both directions. You’ve taught me much about grace, commitment and a genuine dedication to excellence. I am grateful to you and look forward to our continued friendship and co-mentorship!