In the early 2000s, I worked at Dannon and had the pleasure of meeting the then 101-year-old Daniel Carasso, founder of the famed yogurt company. As a little boy, he was called Danone, the diminutive of Daniel, which became the name his father chose for the European-based parent company. Daniel shared the story that before fleeing Europe in 1941 (they were Jews originally from Salonika, now Thessaloniki), he oversaw Danone in Spain while his father managed the business in France. In their monthly call, comparing profitability, Daniel always asked that his father disclose his numbers first. Spain’s yogurt business was very successful, but Daniel never wanted to show up his father, so he reported his numbers as slightly lower than his father’s. He told this story in the humble voice of kibud av.
At Dannon here in the U.S., I worked on a mentoring program, helping staff members to support, guide, coach and positively influence one another. While Daniel Carasso reported lesser numbers to his father as a young man, he grew to become a great mentor to many. The company supported mentorship as an important value and as an opportunity to truly learn from others, provide support and celebrate success.
Mentorship is valuable at every level of an organization.
Pirkei Avot tells us to “make for ourselves a teacher.” To do so, we must first acknowledge that we have something to learn and are humble enough to recognize our imperfections and seek guidance. We are not looking for a pat on the back, but rather, the challenge to help us grow and take the next step.
Engaging with a mentor provides the opportunity to gain objective input on projects, career focus, job search and more—from an experienced professional who may hail from a different industry, role or generation. Each of us can benefit from a fresh perspective, and perhaps not from just one mentor, but rather a personal board of directors. Mentorships are no longer as formal as they once were. Millennials/Gen Y-ers are finding multiple people to tap. Each mentor’s unique viewpoint can inform how we evaluate a situation or an opportunity.
And let’s not forget that it is a two-way street. The mentor is bound to learn from the protégé as well. For every mentor, adding value for someone else is itself a great reward. But there are often additional perks like tangential learning, networking and sometimes a lasting friendship.
JFCS’ Re-Launch Career Services has the commitment of several successful individuals who generously offer to mentor. Feel free to contact us to benefit from this wonderful (free) opportunity. Re-Launch also provides career readiness services like resume building, cover letters, interview skills and much more.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy sweet new year!
Sandra Leshaw is the director of Re-Launch Career Services for JFCS. She can be reached at 201-837-9090 x225 or [email protected] For more info on JFCS visit www.jfcsnnj.org.