I don't remember much about our first meeting, except that I was somewhat in awe. Trying to stay cool , I spoke to him directly and honestly, answering his questions and posing questions to him. I didn't really think much about it at the time. A famous jewelry designer, we were opening one of his new stores and there was work to be done.
Something struck a chord between us, this awe-inspiring gentleman and me. I was amazed to meet the man who built a business from the ground up and designed the jewelry I was wearing. Later he would tell me that he was impressed by my academic credentials and day job, wondering why I was working part-time at his store.
Inspired by this meeting as well as my experience working at his store, I left a misaligned career in engineering (my day job) to pursue a graduate degree that would launch my second career as a retailer. Mr. J and I somehow stayed in touch. Not sure if I reached out to him or if he reached out to me “ doesn't matter. The point is, we remained in contact. I even worked in his store during breaks from grad school.
At graduation I was ecstatic to land my dream job, and of course Mr. J was cheering me on, almost as proud of me as my own parents. I kept him updated on my achievements and career movement; periodically he would pick up the phone to check on me. I loved getting those calls.
It's been years since our first meeting and I still love talking to Mr. J.
My architect Hubby enjoys visiting with him as much as I do, since Mr. J is a designer and has an interest in architecture. He even had an interview with Frank Lloyd Wright when he was younger! Oh, the stories Mr. J can tell. We never cease to be amazed at all that he's experienced and accomplished.
One of the biggest things that Mr. J has accomplished is inspiring people. Customers are more like groupies, all eager to tell employees when they first received one of his designs. Most have never met him, but feel an emotional connection to him through his thoughtfully designed items.
Mr. J doesn't know it, but he inspires me every day. He politely brushes it off when I tell him I owe the career that I love to him and his encouragement. He doesn't believe me when I tell him how his company was a pioneer in certain areas. I think my praise embarrasses him. But it's true. And I ™m not one to dole out unwarranted praise.
Whether he likes it or not, Mr. J is my unofficial mentor. And I couldn't ask for a better one.
I do wish that I ™d understood the role of a mentor earlier in my career. If so, I would have picked up the phone to Mr. J more often, asking his advice about certain career moves. Maybe I would have made the same choices; maybe not. But I haven't taken advantage of his experience and knowledge like I should have.
When I lost my job, I took a part-time job at the store where it all started. I called Mr. J to let him know. He gave me a pep-talk, encouraging me, telling me I would be successful no matter what. He connected me with corporate folks to discuss job opportunities. He shared ideas and thoughts as I considered working for myself. Inspiration at its best.
I ™ve got a chance to inspire those who are just embarking on their careers. I ™m actually a mentor now myself. Unlike Mr. J, I pro-actively took on this role. Like Mr. J, I wonder why these younger people want to talk to me and if I have enough insight to help them.
One thing I know for sure: I hope to encourage and inspire people like he did for me. Even if I ™m not famous.