As part of our career development, there are times when an outside perspective is helpful. Mentorship is a pathway to meet your professional growth needs at any point of your career. Below, Deborah Paul and Janette Lawrence share their mentorship journey, including what they were seeking and what they found.
Deborah: After two years as a genetic counselor, I was ready to make a change. I worked primarily as a pediatric genetic counselor but was also providing prenatal and cancer counseling. After a year and half, I decided that I wanted to pursue cancer genetic counseling, which I had been interested in since graduate school. However, I still felt like a new genetic counselor, and this would be the first job transition in my new career. At this point, I created my mentee profile on NSGConnect in search of an NSGC mentor.
Janette: After 15 years of being a GC, I was asked by a colleague if I wanted to be a mentor, and honestly, the idea intimidated me. I had no idea what “being a mentor” entailed, and I was nervous that I would not know what to do or not have enough time. A co-worker said that with my years of clinical experience and my recent leadership roles in NSGC, I should sign up with NSGConnect and be a mentor. I started my profile and answered questions as honestly as possible (for example, please do not ask me for guidance in writing a research grant, but I absolutely can help with work efficiency, work/life balance, and community outreach). What happened next almost gave me a panic attack: Someone asked me to be their mentor!
Deborah: When searching for a mentor, I took advantage of the search filter criteria on NSGConnect to find someone whom I would consider my “match.” I was looking for someone to help guide me through the job transition process and hone my cancer genetic counseling skills.
What stuck out to me about Janette’s profile was that she also worked as a pediatric genetic counselor after graduation and then transitioned to cancer, and she was also a Spanish-English bilingual counselor! Counseling bilingually was a goal that I had worked hard towards, and I was excited to find someone with such a similar path to the one I envisioned for myself.
Janette: After receiving Deborah’s request, I began to search online frantically for resources regarding “how to be a good mentor.” The internet did not disappoint, completely overwhelming me, and ultimately reinforcing a sense of imposter syndrome. I asked a few colleagues for advice, and they all said the same thing: “Janette, you’ve been a mentor for many of our GCs, GC graduate students, and prospective students. You got this!” My colleagues were right. I looked back and realized that I had guided several GCs in the early stages of their careers. I took a deep breath, accepted Deborah’s request, and suggested we meet on a video call.
Deborah: I connected with Janette in 2020, and it has been one of the most valued relationships I’ve made within the NSGC community. She supported me through my job transition with professional guidance and was a personal cheerleader for me in my new endeavors. Janette has been available to me as a mentor, resource, and friend (even at short notice). Whether to consult on a complex case, discuss career doubts, or talk about our crucial work-life balance, she has provided me with invaluable support over the past two years.
Janette: I recall the first video call I had with Deborah because it seemed like we were simply chatting, without an agenda, enjoying the ease of our conversation. She was about to transition to a new job in cancer genetics, a field I had been in for ten years. We decided we would meet monthly unless something came up and have connected for different reasons. Deborah amazes me when we discuss complex scenarios, work-life balance issues, and challenging life decisions. Although technically she is my mentee, I admire Deborah’s resiliency, thoughtfulness, and compassion. I often feel like she is my mentor, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
If you want to start a mentoring relationship, please check out NSGConnect. Also, celebrate Mentorship Day on Thursday, Oct 27th by registering here for a virtual event filled with interviews, demonstrations, and networking.