Why I mentor: Beth Olson, director of IT at Staples

January is National Mentoring Month, and we are highlighting a number of perspectives on mentoring, events, and ways you can get involved in the field. Today's blog is a Q&A with Staples' Director of IT Beth Olson, a mentor at the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation in Framingham. Beth's mentee is an 18-year-old Framingham High School senior who she has mentored since she was 16. Staples is supporting a statewide mentoring public awareness campaign for the third consecutive year.

  1. Why is mentoring important to you?
    I truly believe that mentoring is a win-win-win situation. Having a mentor offers an easier, better and more focused path. It helps the “mentee” become more proficient and successful in school and in life. It allows me to “give back” by sharing wisdom and experience. It helps society by developing well-rounded, knowledgeable young adults.

    Mentoring is a complement to school for these kids. In school they learn functional "how-to" things. As a mentor, I can be a coach and can assist with the more subjective areas of life – like what my mentee wants to have, do, and be; as well as things like how to deal with frustration, peer pressure, handling disappointment, being compassionate, and the rewards of being of service.

  2. What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had mentoring?
    [caption id="attachment_619" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Beth and her mentee"][/caption]My most rewarding experience as a mentor? There have been so many! They include watching my mentee gain confidence – in herself and in our relationship. Some are small, like watching her be of service to others when we weren’t doing a community service project. We were just out together and she helped a single mom who was feeding her young son. He made a mess and she brought them over her extra paper plate and napkins. Some are larger, like listening to her tell me her New Year’s resolutions: to get all As and Bs, get her driver’s license, and get a job – and then watching her succeed quickly at all three. Another was taking her to her job interview and having them offer her the job on the spot!
  3. What piece of advice do you find most helpful for the people you mentor?
    For me, being a mentor is about believing in someone even if they don’t necessarily believe in themselves yet. It’s about keeping it real – being honest and letting her learn from my mistakes. It’s about showing her that I don’t have all the answers but that doesn’t stop me from taking calculated risks, continue learning, and having the willingness to make mistakes. It’s about letting her know that life will not necessarily work out exactly how we plan, but we can control how we react to it. It’s about sharing perspective – staying positive – setting goals and going after them even if they seem out of reach.
  4. What advice would you give to other adults looking to become mentors?
    It’s a fabulous experience, but you need to be willing to put in the time. If you are, you’ll reap the rewards tenfold!
  5. Who has been a mentor in your life? What are some of the lessons they taught you?
    One of my high school teachers, and my first boss were both informal mentors. They believed in me and saw things in me I couldn’t see yet, but their encouragement led me to reach for goals I wouldn’t have thought I could achieve.
  6. What inspired you to become a mentor?
    Being a mentor is a big responsibility. It’s a little like being a parent – only to a child who wants to listen. ;-) I became a mentor because I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years, and I wanted to make a difference and share some of those lessons with someone who was hungry to learn.
  7. What mentoring programs have you been involved in?
    I have been a mentor with the Mazie Mentoring Program for the past two years. Prior to that I coordinated teen and children’s workshops and was a resource group leader.