Nicole Smart Garcia (left) during a break-out session at the WISE Within NYC Metro kick-off.
When I applied to the WISE Within mentor program, my game plan was not only to retain strategic advice on professional development, but also to seek guidance regarding my aspiration of attending law school. I had no doubts that the program would have its rewards, but what set this mentoring experience apart from any other was the subtle advice I received from my mentor and how it became the most valuable asset of this experience.
Mentor’s Advice: Reassess
I was matched with a mentor within the legal profession and was certain that she would serve as a great influence in elevating my interest in law school. Upon our initial meeting, however, she suggested I reassess the prospect of attending law school because I would not necessarily need such a degree to facilitate the long-term goals I set out to achieve in my developmental plan. "Focus on your brand, and look into some of the executive master's programs," she said. She further pointed out that such a program would not only complement my professional experience, but would also help heighten the expertise I was seeking within labor and employee relations.
Shortly after that meeting, I took a step back and began on a path of exploring other options. I started the journey by speaking with various business professionals, and I examined the curriculum of a number of graduate school programs that were specifically aligned with my professional experience, considering how each program would complement my objectives.
Embracing My Brand
The journey led me to the industrial labor relations master's degree program offered at Cornell University's New York City campus. I was ecstatic to learn how such core courses as collective bargaining and labor and employment law mirrored my interests. The degree aligned with my professional objectives and was attainable in almost half the time it would take to acquire a law degree. I submitted my application and was accepted.
The fresh perspective offered by my mentor helped open my eyes to options that I hadn't previously considered. As I grow professionally, the prospect of attending law school in the future is not completely off the table, but I am certain that I have made the right decision for right now. My mentor succeeded in helping to change my course of actions, and her invaluable assessment is what has led me to embrace my brand and build upon it. At the end of the day, isn't that what one aspires to achieve from a mentoring relationship?
About Nicole Smart
Nicole Smart Garcia is a legal coordinator for the National Football League. Day to day, she coordinates the administration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) player grievance procedure in the Management Council legal department. Prior to joining the NFL, Smart Garcia was employed at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and has experience in global human resources. She received her bachelor's degree in leadership and management studies from New York University in 2009 and is currently pursuing her master's degree in industrial labor relations at Cornell University.
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