Meet the Ernst & Young Mentor of the Year: Nicole Griffith

Sep 3, 2012 4:10 PM ET

Nicole Griffith, a lead recruiter for the Financial Services Office of Ernst & Young LLP, has mentored New York City high school students through iMentor since 2001 — but her commitment to mentoring extends back to her days as a college student at Cornell and into all aspects of her life. Whether she is helping new members of her team at Ernst & Young adapt to life at the firm, reaching out to minority high school students through the Cornell Alumni Ambassador Network or helping her mentees become college-ready, Nicole believes that creating a strong personal connection is one of the ways she can make a difference.

In addition to contributing her time as a mentor, Nicole also uses her professional skills to expand the reach of iMentor’s programming within the New York community and within Ernst & Young. As a member of the iMentor Women’s Committee, Nicole extends her involvement with iMentor beyond mentoring and is able to build on her prior experience with the iMentor Young Executive Board (2003–08). And she teams with the Community Engagement Leaders at Ernst & Young LLP’s New York office to raise the profile of iMentor at the firm and to recruit new volunteers.

Nicole shares her thoughts on mentoring below:

Q. Why are you a mentor?

A. There are so many reasons, but I think the most important one is that I appreciate the people who have helped me along the way, and I want to give others the same opportunities I had. For me, mentoring is about setting up people for success. And I absolutely love watching the young people I mentor open up to the world of possibilities and begin creating an education and career path that is right for them.

Q. With work and other obligations, how do you make time for mentoring?

A. I have to give credit to iMentor for making it easy. First, iMentor builds deep partnerships with public high schools in New York City, enrolling every single student at their partner schools into a mentoring relationship. This helps me as a mentor because I know I’m part of a broader community that values what I’m doing. Second, the iMentor model is very flexible; iMentor combines monthly face-to-face meetings with ongoing email communication, so I’m able to connect with my student in a way that works for both our schedules. Third, iMentor brings me a really robust set of tools to support me as a mentor — everything from ideas on how to build a personal relationship to tools that support college exploration and preparation.

Q. What role can mentors play in helping youth become college-ready?

A. Getting ready for college can be daunting, especially if a student is the first person in his or her family to pursue that path. Mentors can help students understand the different options — community college, four-year college, etc. — and research majors and degree programs. They can work with the student to develop a plan for tackling the application process. They can provide coaching on things we may take for granted: how to dress for an interview, questions to ask, how to follow up with a thank-you note. Most importantly, they can provide the mentee with encouragement and be a role model.

Q. How does mentoring benefit the mentor?

A. A key to personal and professional success is a person’s ability to build and grow authentic relationships. As a mentor, you connect with a young person who may look different from you or may live in a neighborhood that you’ve never visited. He or she probably has a very different relationship to technology. Your relationship with your mentee can make you a more inclusive leader, and that’s important for all aspects of your life.