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How to find the perfect mentor right under your nose

While I enjoy helping families find answers to their paternity questions, my favorite part about being a judge on TV is giving them encouragement and advice while helping them find productive ways to move forward in their lives. Outside the courtroom, I am actively involved in mentoring young women to help them grow up to be strong, independent members of society.

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As one of the co-founders of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN), my ultimate goal is to help these young women connect with powerful mentors so their mentors can help guide them to achieving their professional goals. I know firsthand about the importance of having strong mentors in my life that helped shape me to be the person I am today. My mother, grandmother and third grade teacher were all women I looked up to, and I’m so grateful for their wisdom.

While she raised me, my mother, Dr. Eunice L. Jordan, was also a college professor. She was intellectual, witty and a trusted confidante to many. People felt comfortable sharing their problems with my mother because they knew she would give honest advice without condemning them for any mistakes. When I advise people in the courtroom and out, I handle situations with compassion, and it comes from a place of love. I thank my mother for showing me how.

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My grandmother taught me an important lesson: Welcome everyone in your circle as part of your “family.” As a child, she considered so many people to be family, that I didn’t know until I was older that many of the women and men I called “aunt” and “uncle” weren’t biologically related to me! Today, I consider all my female friends to be sisters, and my son has countless “cousins,” “brothers” and “sisters” of his own. At my grandmother’s house growing up, though she had 10 children of her own, there was never a shortage of space at the table, and there was always enough food for all of our greatly extended family.

When I attended third grade at Schultz Elementary in Detroit, I excelled in school. I was academically performing above my grade level and unfortunately, as a result, I was often sent to do additional work separated from my class. This led to me feel like somewhat of a social outcast. My teacher, Ms. Kimbrough, told me to never be ashamed and to always celebrate who I am. With her guidance, I continued to do well in school, and today I know I couldn’t be where I am, or who I am, without her.

These three women taught me to work hard at everything I do, and they also taught me about the importance of sharing what I have learned with other young women. As I travel the country, many people ask me to be their mentor or ask me how they can find one. I always tell people the same thing: Your greatest mentors in life find you. When you do your very best in life, and your light is shining, people will be drawn to you. They will want to take you under their wing.

Mentors come in various forms:

  • Family — Family members, like my mother and grandmother, are strong individuals to look up to in one’s life. Seek out someone within your circle, whether a blood relative or not, who you admire for how they lead their life.
  • Educator — A teacher, whether kindergarten or a college professor, is always a positive person to look towards for advice. We all have a favorite teacher who we think back fondly on having guided us, encouraged us and educated us both academically and socially.
  • Employer — A colleague or supervisor at work can also fit the mentor role later in life. Think back on jobs you’ve had where you’ve admired how fellow women balanced their family and jobs, worked hard to reach the position they held at a company or even how they interacted with other co-workers or superiors.
  • Community leaders — People at your church or people involved in a civic organization to which you belong are also strong role models for people of all ages. These types of women also show how work and family duties can be balanced with giving back to one’s local or global community.
  • Aspirational Mentors — Many women forget that a mentor can also be someone who you don’t directly know but find aspirational, such as an author, entrepreneur or even a celebrity. Taking cues from someone you admire for how they lead their life, decisions they make or organizations they’re involved in still creates this positive influence of guidance in one’s life.

Do you have someone in your life who has helped you become the person you are today? I’d love to hear about your mentor and how they have impacted your life.

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