One of the many great benefits of joining the Corps at City Year is the professional development and growth. For example, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, the Team Sponsor at Thurgood Marshall School is kicking off another year of their mentoring program. The program includes each City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps member on the team regularly meeting with a specific Drinker Biddle & Reath employee to gain networking experience, build a relationship, and ask relevant career advice. There are regularly organized opportunities for mentors and mentees to connect throughout the year.
Similar to how students look up to their “near-peer” Americorps members for guidance on how to achieve their goals, the opportunity allows corps members to learn and seek advice from those who a bit further along in their career paths.
Below is a Q&A with one of Drinker Biddle’s program mentors, and City Year Philadelphia’s Associate Board Co-Chair, Nolan Tully. Nolan is an associate at Drinker Biddle and has been a City Year champion for the past five years.
What made you decide to get involved in City Year's Mentor Program?
I started at Drinker Biddle in September 2010. At that point, Drinker had been a loyal City Year corporate sponsor for some time. Personally, I was motivated to become involved because my sister was a City Year AmeriCorps member in Philadelphia in 2009. I think what the corps members do on a day to day basis is so impressive, and to maintain the enthusiasm and excitement they have for the City Year mission is really inspiring. So with my personal and professional connection to City Year, I really felt strongly that I wanted to get involved as much as I could.
Why do you think mentorship is important?
I think that mentorship is important because it allows both the mentor and the mentee to learn from one another’s experiences. For the mentee, you are able to gather information from the mentor, and tap into the mentor’s expertise. The mentee is also able to learn from the mentor’s past experiences, and shape their future experiences in a more informed way. I think it is important for the person in the mentor role to share their experiences, including their mistakes and pass those down to someone who can really benefit from hearing the information. Finally, life in many ways is about who you know, and mentorship allows both sides of the relationship to expand and deepen their respective networks.
Nolan (back, center left) and other Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP employees meet with the Thurgood Marshall AmeriCorps team to learn about their work at the school.
What makes a valuable mentor?
I think the most valuable skill a mentor can have is to be a good listener. In order to provide a mentee with the guidance they are looking for, you have to really understand what they want out of the relationship. To do that, you have to listen closely and actively to the person seeking guidance, so that you can tailor the advice and experience that you share in the best way possible for them.
What advice would you give AmeriCorps members to get the most out of a mentor relationship?
I would advise an AmeriCorps member to be proactive about the mentorship relationship. While the relationship between the mentor and the mentee is beneficial for both sides, the mentee will get the most out of it when he or she actively and consistently engages the mentor for help and advice.