I needed someone to talk to. To share my frustrations and ideas. Someone who I could ask a million questions to without them becoming annoyed by it all. I needed someone who I could burn out, without literally burning them out. That someone, turned into somebodies. And they poured into me, in three very distinct ways.
Here’s how it all began.
I decided, and was also voluntold, to sign up for mentorship opportunities through NASPA. The first opportunity I took advantage of, was while attending the NASPA annual conference in Indianapolis in 2016. As a first time attendee, I was paired with a mentor, which I originally believed was just to help me navigate the conference for the first time. It and she, we’ll call her Dr. T, ended up being so much more.
With having much success with my first time attendee mentor pairing, I signed up for the Candid Conversations 365 program through the NASPA Center for Women. I was paired with Dr. A. Another match made by the Student Affairs’ Gods.
And then there was the person just two office doors down, with a few more years of experience than I, who truly embodied an “open door policy.” He likes to emphasize that people remember to call him “Pea.”
Two were assigned and one developed on its own, but there’s one thing that all three relationships had in common; they formed organically. Something that many professionals say needs to be an element of mentorship; not forced but natural. Coincidentally, both women are African American with Doctor in front of their names. Something I aspire for myself. And both women are a part of the same sorority as I. African American, doctor, Greek. These were not “required” boxes that I checked while filling out a mentee profile, but things that happened by chance. Same with Pea. We share the same home state and similar life values. That’s what manifested in his mentoring.
As someone who transitioned into Student Affairs from a different career field, guidance and mentorship is something that I was seeking desperately. I also knew that I wanted to receive it from professionals who were not directly connected to my institution or department. I craved that unbiased opinion. But I never knew that seeking the connection of one, would lead to the power of three.
A troika is defined as a powerful group of three; specifically an administrative or ruling body. My troika compliments each other perfectly, and as a young professional, here’s how they mentored me in accomplishing three things that young professionals so desperately value.
PERFORMING FOR YOUR NEXT, NEXT
One thing that is great about Dr. A, is that she serves as a director of a similar division as I, overseeing the type of work that I do for my institution. Where it differs, is the platform in which her division’s services are offered; virtually. She constantly challenged me to be innovative in the work that I was doing. That’s an awesome program, but how can you reach more students? How can it be more impactful? Did you think to have the dialogue this way? Our conversations frequently left me reflecting on what steps I could currently be taking that would not only prepare me for my next, next, but give me experience in developing the needed skill set.
Get you a Dr. A; someone who serves in a position that you strive to have.
Dr. T was the long lost older sister I never knew I needed. We hit it off immediately, and have several things in common. We talk not only about work, but about life. With Dr. T, she aids me in piecing it all together; making meaning of my feelings and actions.
Days after first meeting, she had me write a very detailed career trajectory; which I still reference to this day. Goal setting and reflection are two things that we try to instill in our students, so of course we’re expected to practice it as Student Affairs professionals. She’s helped me come to conclusions about my career and personal life that would have probably taken me a lot longer if she wasn’t a part of my troika.
Get you a Dr. T; someone who helps you piece it all together.
Like most young professionals I refused to believe that I couldn’t have it all, however, I hadn’t mastered how to have it all. I was once told that work-life balance was a myth in this field. But I feel like everywhere I go I constantly hear… SELF-CARE. SELF-CARE. SELF-CARE.
As I mentioned before, Pea and I share a few life values. Fitness, passion for music, and travel, just to name a few. He’s the portion of my troika that reminds me to work out every day (my stress reliever), take that trip, go see that concert, the email can wait and don’t stay too late tonight. He doesn’t just say these things, but he leads by example. Frequently leaving me pondering, how does he do it all?
Get you a Pea; someone who reminds you it’s okay to be selfish, and holds you accountable to do so.
Some members of my troika I speak with more often than others; but their guidance and words of wisdom or affirmation, are ingrained in my mind. When I started on my journey of mentorship, I was seeking just one person, and each member of my troika can easily assist me in all three areas, and more. But one person can’t be everything you need, all of the time.
It’s easy to find yourself lost while navigating this thing called Students Affairs. When seeking a mentor (s), take the time to truly reflect on what it is you’re needing, and try to connect with people who can be that for you. Most importantly, get you a troika. The power of three, worked for me.
Josclynn Brandon is the Coordinator of Diversity, Leadership and Volunteerism at Western Kentucky University. Her interests consist of playing hard, and working even harder. She’s constantly working to better herself and those around her; that’s why she strives to live by her favorite quote from Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”