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Judith Whitehead: A good mentor can change everything

Many years ago I completed my degree in medical assisting and one of the first positions I took was with a most uninspiring and miserable boss.

After enduring that position for a year, I decided there had to be something better and decided to peruse the want ads for a more inspiring position. I had a few jobs in between that worked out well; one thing led to another and we decided to start a family and open a Stride Rite shoe store. We worked the store for a few years and when it came time to close it, I began to search for a position in ophthalmology once again.

This time I was very particular. I needed to work with someone who would appreciate my skills and increase my knowledge in the field. I found such a person who would become my mentor for the next several years, someone who would share his knowledge with me and let me grow into the technician I am today.

A mentor can come in many forms; he or she can be a teacher, a leader or employer, among many things. It is very hard to find people who will share their day and knowledge with you while boosting your ego all at the same time. His inspiration made me want to be the best I could be. I pursued certification in this field and returned to college to obtain my degree in gerontology, all because I had the confidence to obtain those goals, all because I had a mentor who believed in me.

It is so important these days to spend your life doing something you love and doing it for someone who appreciates you and the gifts you have to offer. Now that I am nearing the end of my 50s, I appreciate more than ever what that one boss did for me so many years ago. I have awakened skills that I never knew I could have and have tried to pay it forward over the years.

Many people work in dead end jobs for many years of their short lives just going along and suddenly realizing that they are approaching the fall of their lives. We are working much longer than ever before because of the economic conditions in our country, and we had better wake up and find something we enjoy doing to fill our days.

I was lucky. My mentor showed me the way, gave me the inspiration to pursue my goals and continued to inspire me for many years.

My message is simple: Don’t stay in a job that doesn’t inspire you to grow. Look for something that makes you feel worthwhile, something that gives you a sense of accomplishment each day. Maybe you can become someone’s mentor. Let the career you choose make you happy every day and if you are not happy, don’t put off looking for something else.