Rae Vasquez is a partner in the corporate group at Baton Rouge-based Jones Walker law firm, representing clients in a range of commercial, finance, and real estate transactions. She credits mentors with helping her get where she is today.
Professional mentorship can be a formal agreement between two colleagues or a casual arrangement between friends or anything in between. Mentoring relationships can help people navigate tricky situations at work, handle the ups and downs of their careers, and provide a listening ear.
Vasquez, a 2019 Influential Women in Business honoree who’s been practicing law for nearly two decades, says she now makes mentorship a priority in her work life. Jones Walker has a formal mentorship program that matches young associates and other employees with someone who has been with the law firm longer.
“I gravitated to a partner in my same section,” Vasquez says of one her mentors. “She was amazing. She was like me: She had come in without Baton Rouge ties like I had come in, she was a female partner, everything I wanted to be and whip-smart. So I was like, ‘Hey if she can do it, I can.'”
Here are some of Vasquez’s mentoring insights.
What makes for a successful mentoring relationship?
A lot of mentoring is about finding the right person you fit with. There has to be a good vibe. The first step is to find someone that has something you want to emulate, the second step is to ask yourself, ‘Are you comfortable with that person?’ Mentoring is all about honesty, advice, and feedback. Whether its a friend, coworker or colleague—you have to feel like you can trust them.
How do you make time for mentoring?
From a time perspective, I find that if you prioritize something, you’re going to make time for it. Mentoring is something that is important to me because I wouldn’t be where I am without the mentors I had. So I prioritize it just like I do my work and my family.
How do you handle difficult conversations with mentees or mentors?
Honesty is the best policy. To talk about difficult subjects, you have to have honesty. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid, it may be uncomfortable but it always leads to more healing. When I know I have to have a difficult conversation I say, ‘Suck it up Rae, this going to be a difficult conversation, but you have to have complete honesty.’ Unless you’re honest with them, they can’t give the feedback you need.
What is the best piece of advice a mentor has offered you?
We were working on a deal and the deal had closed and I went to go celebrate. When I got back to the office, my mentor said, ‘The deal is not done until the senior attorney, the person you’re working with, says that it’s done.’ From your perspective, the work may be done, but from their’s, it may not be. It’s important to check in with the people you are working with.
What is the best advice you impart on those you mentor?
The best advice that I impart to my mentees is that your reputation is the most powerful leverage you have. Part of establishing a solid reputation comes from what my mentor taught me: You need to be checking in and making sure that you are working to the standards of those you are working with.