Do you ever find yourself saying that ‘this is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life’? And do you find that some of the very best things you do in your life are often those that are hard at first, scary even?
Just this past year – three decades into my career and five decades into my life – I did one of those ‘scary’ things I’m always preaching to my kids about. And it changed my work and my life. Or actually, he did – my coworker, and friend, Avi.
I’m an employee communications partner and some of my most fulfilling work comes from writing about our company’s Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) programs and I&D employee resource groups (ERGs). (What would the corporate world be without its acronyms?)
One of the ERGs is called Enabling Disability Confidence and I signed up one day to serve as a mentor at an Enabling ERG mentoring day – an event I was also going to write about in our company publications.
It was a new experience for me and, truth told, I was really nervous about acting appropriately in a room full of young adults with disabilities. I was afraid I’d say or do the wrong thing … or be visibly uncomfortable. I was paired with Avi, who was among a dozen recent college graduates looking to get a taste of working in a large corporation like ours.
My half day with Avi opened my eyes to the tremendous abilities people with disabilities can offer. I wanted other people to see it too. I wanted to help Avi for more than a half day. And I wanted to do something lasting and real.
So I decided to go out on a limb and pitch the business case of hiring Avi as a permanent intern through our company’s EmployAbility program. My vice president agreed and Avi became part of our communications team and the first person in the US part of our company to be hired through the program.
I have the great joy of working with him closely, as his day-to-day manager. He’s sweet, he’s smart and he’s one of my favorite coworkers for his spirit, sense of humor and dedication. He’s talented at graphic design and pretty much our computer go-to person for almost everything. And he’s detail-oriented and works with laser focus.
Most fulfilling for me is how my coworkers have embraced and befriended Avi too – inviting him out to lunch and holiday celebrations, having him cheer on our lunchtime bocce team, giving him more and more responsibilities and assignments. Just wanting to chat and hang out with him.
And they can also see how he’s grown, personally and professionally – with ever-growing confidence and ease. His parents say they see the same growth in him at home and that it’s changed his life.
When I went to the Mentoring Day, one of Avi’s career coaches said we mentors would find ourselves saying – ‘Who helped who’? I couldn’t express it better. Quite simply, hiring and getting to know Avi is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s helped me grow personally and professionally. And I’m grateful beyond words for the opportunity and experience.