Mentee Insights on Role of a Life-Changing Mentor

Jacqueline Vargas with her mentor, Jose Rivera.

Jacqueline Vargas with her mentor, Jose Rivera.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.  Although this definition is appropriate, it lacks a few qualities that must be stated to adequately describe the function that a mentor plays on its mentee’s life.

In all reality, any person can teach things or give advice to others, but a mentorship is much more complex.  A mentorship is an investment of time, a perceived gift, a commitment, and a two-way learning process.  Just like any other relationship, a mentorship involves constant work and communication to produce favorable results. 

When reflecting on the word “mentorship,” I cannot help but feel that I have been able to progress in my career because of the various mentors that I have had in my life. Growing up, I had many great teachers who inspired me to go to college, and pursue the higher education degree I had always dreamed of. I knew that it was not going to be easy, but I was ready to take on the challenge.

My journey began four years ago at California State University, San Bernardino.  As a first generation college student and daughter of immigrants, simply getting into college was an accomplishment in itself. I was not knowledgeable of the opportunities that I could benefit from, so my goal was simple; to graduate. I was both excited and scared about the journey that I was about to undertake, and I definitely felt that I needed someone to guide me.

Then I met my professor, Jose Rivera. Perhaps my prayers were answered or it was “just luck,” but all I know is that I hit the jackpot. I learned so many things from him, and soon he began to open my eyes to the endless opportunities that this girl from little Hinkley, California could benefit from. He taught me to believe in myself, take advantage of every opportunity, realize that mentoring is a two-way learning process, and most importantly pay it forward.

Believe in Yourself

This is a common phrase Jose used when explaining to me that I had potential to succeed in life. He talked to me about the importance of internships, having a resume, and developing proper interview skills. He told me that if we worked together, I would be a great candidate for our field one day.

Jose believed in me so much, that he invested a lot of time into my resume and writing assignments. He taught me the importance of having a first, second, third, fourth, and even fifth draft. “Until it is perfect,” he would say. That resume that we worked on for what felt like weeks landed me my first internship. The way in which Jose believed in me, soon began to give me the confidence to believe in myself.

Take Advantage of Every Opportunity

Jose taught me the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity that came my way.  His theory was that no opportunity too big or small should ever be passed by. I still remember when I would volunteer at events where my only duty was handing out flyers. What at one point seemed insignificant helped me build on my experience that led to a life changing opportunity.

Jose helped me build on my first internship, and today I am interning with the United States Department of Agriculture, in Washington D.C. I have been able to use my knowledge that Jose helped build, and have put it into practice in the real world.

From writing articles for the OPUS/USDA newsletter, creating blog posts for the Assistant Administrator, developing marketing strategies for diversity and inclusion initiatives, to developing campaigns; I have done it all. I have been fortunate enough to intern for a department where I am constantly learning new skills that I know will help me in my dream of becoming a successful public relations professional.

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