What a Gen X Lawyer Learned Mentoring a Gen Y Employee
The Mysterious Fax
In June of 2019, our office received a fax from a young lady named Karen Sears who had just graduated from Tomball High school near Houston. It was addressed to the name of the law firm. She was a young lady who had been thru financial hardships, her father had lost he job the year before and she was trying to find a way to pursue her dream of going to law school. So, what she was doing was sending faxes out to every law firm in town that basically told her story and were asking for someone to help her financially to go to paralegal school. Her plan was to get a paralegal certificate so she could work as a paralegal when in law school.
Are We Listening When God Speaks?
When I read the fax, I thought, out of 35 people working in this office how in the world did this wind up on my desk? And, of course, being the good and faithful servant who is always mindful of the messages God sends us I took it seriously, right?
Nope. I tossed it in that one drawer where you put those all the miscellaneous papers that eventually get cleaned out and thrown away. I saw it as one more thing I didn’t have time to deal with. I wasn’t listening.
Lighting Strikes Twice
Four months later, I walk into my office to find another blind fax on my desk. As I start reading it, I’m thinking, “I know this story.”
Girl graduates from high school and needs financial help. Only now the story is a little longer. She has now completed paralegal school thanks to a generous donation from a local Christian attorney, Mark Lanier. She has also enrolled at SHSU on credit with no money to pay for it and she’s asking for help.
As I read on, I learned that she had begun a business selling items she would order from bulk suppliers in order to raise money to pay the college costs her loans would not cover. It was called itpaysmycollegetuition.com She had a retail website she had managed to set up and was doing craft shows to make the sales. But, sales were not going well. Buy something. Sponsor me. Whatever you can do to help.
This time the letter caught my attention because I realized she had been sending this out blindly to every law firm in Houston she could find. Twice. I thought, “are you kidding me? You sent almost the same letter out to the exact same attorneys who turned it down the first time and you are now hoping for a different result?” It’s a miracle it wasn’t thrown in the trash straight from the fax machine since it was addressed to no one.
Then I realized something. I am not a lawyer who deals with the hiring at our firm. I hire my own assistant when I need one and that is it. What were the odds that this letter would find its way to my desk–the desk of the wrong person–twice only four months apart?
She didn’t know what she was doing so she was sending out a plea for help. That plea found it’s way to me against the odds twice. Suddenly I thought, what if this is a God thing? What if I ignore him again? I have always found that when God asks me to do something for a third time, that third request feels a lot like a club to the head. God knew exactly what he was doing when he caused it to be placed on my desk twice.
So I thought, you know, I used to have an marketing online assistant, she seems to have some online skills if she can build a marketing website, I can work with that. Besides, she’s got more perseverance than I’ve ever seen so what would that look like working for me?
God’s Plan is Not Always as Clear as It Seems
When I got the first fax, I not only wasn’t listening, I wasn’t asking. I saw it as junk mail and went about my business. The second fax was like a wakeup call. I just knew that God wanted me to hire this young lady immediately and help her.
I began typing an email in which I suggested she consider coming to work for me. She promptly turned my job offer down. She had a flexible time job as a dentist office receptionist. It was close to home and she was not ready to give that convenience up.
So I said responded back, “why don’t you come meet with me anyway? Worst case scenario I can give you a lot of good advice on how to market your online business better and make more money with it.” I thought surely once she saw what I do with online marketing, she would want to learn it and use it for her own business.
The funny part is that it wasn’t until I looked back later and was asked specifically how prayer played a part in all of this that the problem I was struggling with was truly clear to me. I thought that I knew exactly what I was supposed to do…I…I…I… But even after a wakeup call, I still wasn’t listing. I was assuming I knew what God had planned. I should have been praying for God to reveal His plan, not assuming I knew what it was.
Pride Reveals Itself
So, she came to meet with me and she brought her dad with her. I have to admit, I’ve never had anyone bring their dad to a job interview before. That was a new experience. I showed her what I did and how it could help her website and she still turned me down.
“Can you believe the audacity of this girl?” I thought. But it was not her audacity, it was mine.
My mistake was pride. I presumed to know exactly what God was doing. Sometimes, even when you truly feel like you are doing exactly what God is asking, you can still let your pride get in the way. You think you know exactly what He is doing and you don’t listen.
I gave Karen a lot of tips on how to make her products more presentable as presents so people would buy them as gifts. I gave her ideas on selling sponsorship links to businesses as well as getting businesses to sponsor her booths at craft shows by paying the booth fees. She seemed like she was excited and gung-ho to try these things. I was still stunned she declined the job.
After the second meeting, I prayed that God would bless Karen. Then my prayer finally turned to asking God what He wanted me to do to help and not simply presuming that I knew what He wanted. I admitted to Him that I was confused and did not understand what he wanted of me in the situation. That is when things started to happen.
The Craft Show Flop to Pop
She went home after our meeting to prepare for a craft show starting the next day. Day one, she did not follow any of my advice and had no sales. That night she repackaged everything as I suggested and promoted additional sales as I suggested. The next day she made a lot of sales. But it didn’t stop there. Over the next week, she had orders coming in from the website from people who had seen her stuff at the show She had one order over $3000 and several other nice sales.
A Mentorship is Launched
After her sales popped, I became sort of coach for her online business. I even redesigned the look and some of the layout to make it more professional. I worked with her to teach her how to seek sponsorships in exchange for links back to the sponsor sites.
After awhile she started asking me for help with college. She asked me to read over a paper before she turned it in. I hated it. I made her rewrite it. In fact, I made her rewrite it six times. Most students would have said “forget it, I’ll do it my way.” But she did not. She got an “A” on that paper. I got to review and critique every paper after that!
I have looked at a lot of papers for her since then and she has rewritten a lot. Sometimes I’ve said scrap it and start over, sometimes I say you just need to organize it better. But she has without a doubt gotten better at writing. She makes A’s on most of her papers and has even nailed it with several 100s. In fact, she’s gone from being a B student to almost straight A’s while working a parttime job 3-4 days a week and running her own online business.
God Blesses Me with an Employee
By The end of December 2019, she realized that working in a law office would be a good idea and she agreed to come to work for me as an online marketing assistant. At that point I began teaching her how to do things like build links to improve website rank and write and post blogs. Not only has her writing continued to improve, her last few blogs have been posted without me recommending a single edit or redraft.
Karen still works for me today. She does a lot of writing for me now still, but I cannot wait to see how well she writes for class next semester.
Receiving Blessings by Giving Back
One of the things I told Karen early on is that it is important to give back. She took it to heart and took it up in prayer.
In December of 2019 she told me that God had placed it upon her heart to create a special gift basket and give it away to one need child.” She asked me what I thought of the idea. I thought it was a great idea.
So, she created a social media post saying people should send in a name and why that child should get the gift basket and she was going to pick a winner. Then came the floods of emails. Sad, sad stories of needy kids that just brought Karen to tears.
She said to me, “Paul, I don’t know how I am going to pick one.” So, we talked and came up with the idea that she could get sponsors to pay for the materials and she could give more baskets away. She posted requests for sponsors and God sent them her way. In the end, she gave away about 25 gift baskets through the generous donation of friends and sponsors, including taking about a dozen or so to Texas Children’s Hospital for kids who were spending their Christmas time in the hospital.
God’s Pats on the Back Beat Those Third Requests
A few months ago, Karen came to me and said, “I want to tell you something. I’ve submitted your name to several organizations for awards for mentorship and the Houston Young Lawyer’s Association has selected you for the 2019 Outstanding Mentor Award.”
I said, “The what award? No way, there’s an award for that?”
I had never heard of it. I thought, “I don’t lead any major groups or anything to deserve that, I just decided to help a kid out.”
Here I was before she came along in my own world doing online marketing the hard way. Writing and publishing and trying to get my firm name out. A Mentorship Award? I could not buy that kind of press and here she is writing letters on her own making it happen.
Let’s face it, all I did was help someone out mainly because I was afraid if I made God ask a third time it was going to leave a mark. It sure is nicer to get an award for mentoring voluntarily than it is to get clubbed over the head for not listening.
Lessons Learned from Mentoring Generation Y
What I learned from Mentoring a Gen Y Employee is this:
- Every employer should be a be looking to hire mentees not just employees.
- You will never, ever find a more dedicated harder working person, than someone who’s goal is to become you.
- They are more teachable than the average employee because they actually want to understand for their own personal reasons. They are learning to benefit themselves not just to benefit you.
- They have the potential to exceed your expectations by applying your teachings to their fresh perspectives.
- If you hear what God is saying to you and you do it, He will bless you in ways you cannot imagine but make sure you are asking and listening the entire time.
- When you show a complete stranger with a dream that you believe in them too, they will excel like you never imagined.
We are blessed to have this special Guest Post from Paul H. Cannon. Please see his bio below.