My Sherpas

Today was a day for change. My job at the College of Architecture, Planning & Design came to an end. I have had the opportunity to work as a student for the college over the past two years, so being in Seaton Hall has become a routine for me. During my time there, I had the pleasure of witnessing strong and innovative design from students all around me from programs which ranked in the top 10 in the nation (excuse the shameless promotion.) More importantly, I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people.

I want to share a story about the importance of mentors. Many people in my life have heard about this metaphor before, but in the last few years, I can’t help but return to it again and again. In February 2013, I attended a conference about Strengths, a Gallup based assessment about individual talents. I could go on and on about the benefits of Strengths and will probably save it for a post coming later. More importantly, during this conference, I heard about Sherpas for the first time. Sherpas are an ethnic group located in the Himalayas who are traditionally known as skilled mountaineers. Generations of Sherpas have led numerous expeditions to Mount Everest, the highest mountain on the planet. Recently, the Sherpa people have been making headlines in the news after a severe avalanche in April which killed 16 guides, the worst accident in Everest’s history. After years of little pay, incredibly harrowing conditions, and a culture of suffering, many Sherpas intended to walk away from mountaineering forever.

What does this have to do with me? I’m sure you’re asking that question, just as I was when I heard this story about Sherpas last year. Here’s the thing: Sherpas don’t just exist in the Himalayas. Sherpas are everywhere around us, and today I was reminded of those people who have guided me to my highest peaks and through my valleys of trouble. Despite receiving nothing in return, my guides have taken a risk on my success and placed a great deal of investment in my future. I’m so thankful that the past few years I was able to work alongside with an incredible group of women who have stood by my side throughout my journey.  

Although this phase of my life is coming to an end, I’ve taken some incredible lessons from my Sherpas at the College of Architecture, Planning & Design. I know that I’ll use these for the rest of my life and I’d love to share a few of them with you.

  1. Never underestimate your value. I caught myself multiple times during my time in Seaton calling myself just a student worker. Each time one of my bosses heard this, they immediately corrected me. To me, some of the work that I had been doing, such as stuffing envelopes and directing traffic in the office, was not something to be considered important. But those envelopes were announcements of acceptance into a program. That traffic could involve a conversation with a prospective student. Every bit of work that I did was a contribution, and my bosses always made me feel like an important member of the team.
  2. Listen.  It took me a while to understand the value of listening, probably because I enjoy talking a little too much. No matter where I was, even in a lunch hour conversation, I had something to learn. All it took was opening my ears and observing. From speech styles to lessons in being prepared, I really enjoyed listening and learning from successful women who had perfected techniques over the years.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This one might seem a little obvious, but in my first few years of college, I had a hard time approaching my professors or other superiors. When in doubt, I always ask questions now. I would much rather do something right the first time instead of waiting until the last minute with numerous questions.
  4. Be professional, but personable. I think there are some serious benefits to behaving like a professional when in the workplace. However, my bosses could immediately sense if I was struggling or stressed. After establishing a strong relationship, they were able to become an additional support system. I can’t thank them enough for the occasional ice cream trips and study snacks during finals week. Their support and kindness made my days so much brighter.
  5. Ask for help. This might be my favorite lesson learned. As I started to look to the next phase of my life, I had an incredible team of resources available to me. Never had I written a cover letter or a “real life” resume before. But my bosses had. They pored over documents, quizzed me on experiences, and encouraged me to chase after my dream job. If I hadn’t asked my Sherpas for help, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So, to my bosses, my Sherpas of the workplace, thank you for everything you have done for me in the past two years. Thank you for listening and learning with me. Thank you for spotting the potential in me, even before I was able to actually see it myself. Thank you for guiding me throughout my journey and placing me at the spot I’m at right now. Thank you for never walking away. It was hard to say “see you later” today, but I know we won’t be saying good-bye for a very long time.




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