Been there. Done that. Time to share.
Alison Martin-Books and I chatted recently where she shared how she gives generously and creatively, and finds the joy in giving back. I hope her story inspires you to find ways to connect with local or global charities, and build relationships in new ways. Here’s the first part of our conversation.
About Alison: She has an impressive background with roughly 17 years of nonprofit work. Alison has a passion for doing work that makes a difference in the lives of others. She’s served as executive director to multiple national non-profit organizations. Her commitment to developing female talent led her to launch Mentoring Women’s Network and the Mentoring Women’s Network Foundation. She’s also the author of the book, “Landing On My Feet: Learning to Lead Through Mentoring,” and speaks regularly on behalf of the organization.
Stefanie: There are so many different ways for all of us to work on our own self-improvement and defining our own vision. Coaching, like what I do, and training, there’s therapy, there’s consulting, there’s friendship. And then there’s your work in mentoring. Can you help us understand what mentoring is and how you see it as a needed service in the communities that you serve?
Alison: Well the way that we define mentoring at Mentoring Women is that it’s knowledge transfer. So, very simply, someone who is truly mentoring is operating from a place of, “I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve done it successfully. I have some knowledge or wisdom to share. And I’m passing that on, or I’m sharing that with the next person.” There are a lot of different sources of advice. We look to a lot of people who are wise and knowledgeable about a lot of different subjects to share their perspective, but if it’s not coming from a place of, “I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve done it successfully, then it’s more of an opinion. Mentoring helps people discover for themselves what their next best step is and drawing the best out of them.
Stefanie: How did you come to see the importance of mentoring in your life?
Alison: As I reflect back, you are sort of sometimes called to do things, and you don’t really know why. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It was not that I set out in this journey early on, to create this big mentoring program and that there was some driving reason behind it. This Mentoring Women’s Network evolved and it was so exciting. We realized that we’d stumbled upon a need.
So many women were coming out and saying they really needed a mentor. They really wanted those one-on-one opportunities to connect with other women in particular. And, you know, then I started really reflecting on my own professional journey and my experiences thus far and how mentors have played such an integral role in my own development.
I was out on my own when I was 16. I was 18 when I had my son. The early success, and all the successes, that I’ve had in my career had a lot to do with meeting incredible people that I was able to cultivate relationships with as mentors.
And really my driving passion behind the work that we do is wanting all women, in particular, to have that access, and to have that support, because it’s so critical, you know, in everything that we try to do.
Stefanie: Yes, it’s funny how the universe strings our life together. And we of course don’t know it until the back end, and learning to trust that this string will come together is the same part of all of our journeys. It’s fun and it’s hard at the same time once you can come to see it.
Alison: Absolutely. I couldn’t have said it better but it really is amazing how, like you said, the universe kind of strings together exactly what’s supposed to happen and I’m like you: I don’t believe that things happen by chance. And when you learn to trust, and sort of let go, it’s really amazing what happens, but it’s certainly not an easy process.
Stefanie: How have you seen mentoring benefit communities, businesses, and people?
Alison: Well, mentoring is really incredible in that regard. And in particular in a lot of the work that we do within businesses. We work with organizations to really try to develop a culture of learning, and of people who are willing to share their perspective, and help. It’s that knowledge transfer. You bring in really great employees, and they’re tenured, and they’ve worked there for a long period of time. And when that new person enters the workforce, we want them to feel very supported and have access to others who are willing to share their perspective in the workplace.
It’s really critical that organizations embrace mentoring as a part of what they do. Because it also helps develop all of us to become better leaders. And to become more empathetic to those we are mentoring.
But just in general, for communities, I mean it, again, is just really critical that people get involved and they’re actively mentoring from a place that they’re comfortable with. And it really does benefit all of us in the community. So many nonprofit organizations have aligned around helping those who are having some significant challenges. Connecting them with successful people who give them that perspective, I can tell you from personal experience how impactful that is.
Stefanie: Yes, beautiful.
Alison: [The journey] has been incredible. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity and for you thinking of me, to share my perspective today. I just think that there’s so many really great resources out there, particularly for women who are looking to connect, expand their network. Connect with mentors; that’s what we’ve created with Mentoring Women’s Network. It’s a comprehensive. Training and matching and scheduling an opportunity that enables us all to actively mentor and participate with women across the country and build that national, and soon to be international, network. So that’s the one thing that I would say is visit our website and see if that resonates with you. Our website is www.mentoringwomensnetwork.com.
Read Part 2 of our conversation where Alison and I discuss what she needed to let go of in order to fully embrace sharing mentoring with women across the country.
Learn more about Alison and purchase her book at mentoringwomensnetwork.com.
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