Courage, confidence and LinkedIn

LinkedIn screenshot of Rachel and Michelle

Meet Rachel Chiaroni-Clarke – I’m her mentor.

Today I agreed to mentor Rachel. I never intended to mentor anyone at this stage in life and career. Don’t get me wrong, I love mentoring fabulous young people but my business is not quite a year old, I’m overwhelmed with work and I only ever intended to meet her for a coffee and a quick chat.

Actually, initially I wasn’t going to agree to meet her. But there was something about the LinkedIn message she wrote me that made me stop and read it again. She made me curious to meet her. I liked her honesty. She has a quirky hand and her writing style sounded like my own voice. I believe confidence like that should be rewarded.

Rachel sent me a message on LinkedIn last week. The subject line said ‘seeking mentorship’. She’s direct. I liked that. She found me on Google. That interesting in itself. No one had recommended me to her – she just went mentor-shopping on Google.

‘I’m sure I am not the first PhD candidate who has turned to Google to consider my future opportunities’, she wrote. ‘On one such journey into the depths of the internet I came across your profile’.

So she finds me on LinkedIn and sends me a message getting straight to the point. She didn’t drop in someone’s name, she didn’t find a common link between us (there is none), she didn’t appeal to a specific skill that I had that she wanted to learn. Rachel is not even a local, she is a blow-in from the wilds of New Zealand’s North Island. So she really didn’t know who I was and I really loved that. I looked at her profile on LinkedIn. I liked her photo and the fact she was a New Zealander.

Let me tell you about Rachel. She is in her second year of a PhD at the University of Melbourne, working at The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Her research thesis involves determining the genetic and environmental factors contributing to a paediatric autoimmune disease – juvenile arthritis. Rachel came to Melbourne via New York’s Rockefeller University with an undergraduate degree from Otago University.

We met for coffee, swapped stories, shared opinions about women in science, the gulf separating academia and industry and knowing what we don’t want. Something did click with me and by the time I could see the bottom of my coffee cup I knew I was going to agree to mentor her. Conversation was easy and we could have talked for longer.

I’ve had wonderful experiences mentoring people throughout the past ten years. All of my mentoring experiences have been informal and all have been guided by the individual nature of the relationship between me and the mentee. Each one is unique. All me mentee relationships continue to this day. I take enormous pride in seeing my mentees succeed and I’m happy to claim some credit. Why not?

Thanks Rachel for being bold, for having the courage and confidence to step up and back yourself, for understanding that there is nothing wrong in asking and for taking the shot.

Michelle Gallaher

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