By Kristi Heicke
My mom didn’t push college. She didn’t even really push a career. I believe she thought and acted as she did because she married young. She led her life on survival mode and never really enjoyed her job. She worked to pay the bills.
I have a sister, and neither of us ever thought about what we were going to do when we grew up. We were in la la land. We didn’t think about what kind of job we wanted, or what kind of paycheck we would earn.
I was the only one of my friends who didn’t graduate from college, who didn’t have a career. But I was also the one who was probably the most energetic. I channeled that energy and became a salesperson, and I thought, hmm, this could be a nice career for me.
Meanwhile, my mother was in the background telling me to relax, that I wasn’t working for my own company. I should just chill.
For many people, you fall into your parents’ path. It takes parents saying, “You can do whatever you want” to inspire kids to think that way. Kids follow their parents.
I didn’t have a mentor – my job – sales – acted as my mentor, my inspiration. But then I found myself out of balance – out of whack. I was going to business meetings – doing things I never thought I’d do, making so much money. But I was stuck. What I really wanted to be was a teacher, or a counselor, but I didn’t think I could. I asked myself, “Can I create that change and build a career around something I love?” I was afraid to quit my sales job. Could I really give up my job never having gone to college? And like so many others in my position, I stayed in it several years longer than I should have.
My mother never believed in being passionate about a career – or in giving it your all, and here I was – giving too much to my job. There’s a danger of falling into a black-or-white way of thinking. You need to let some color in to create happiness. You need a mentor, a cheerleader to guide you through the baby steps of letting the color in – of creating the right life for you.
My nonprofit organization– Girlfriends – gives girls ages 11-15 a place to talk about their challenges and access to someone who’s older and wiser (me!). But even as an adult you need mentoring – help reevaluating your life and answering questions.
Friends who are strong, wise, forthright and supportive can be powerful mentors. I have a couple of friends who give me this support, which has made me realize -- you don’t know how much you need it until you’re lucky enough to have it.
I want to create a Girlfriends group for adult women. I want to create that safe space where women can get guidance and support. Building a network of mentors isn’t impossible. If you surround yourself with women who have values similar to yours, and whose advice you respect and appreciate, you have the makings of a mentor group. You can schedule an afternoon coffee or a post-dinner drink with your friends. Create a mini agenda that will keep you on track as you work through the pressing issues. Life is so much better with a little support, a little mentoring.
In the end, you are the one who will make the crucial decisions in your life and set your own path, but the counsel and nurturing support along the way can prove to be invaluable.
Kristi Heicke is the founder of Girlfriends, a nonprofit mentor group for girls based in Long Beach, California. The organization’s tag line is, “A powerful mentor can change you’re life!”