Renee O’Neil is 53 and lives in Biddeford with her husband Jim. She is the director of admissions and public relations at St. Andre Health Care in Biddeford. Her hobbies include gardening, biking, painting, and kayaking.
“Guide, trusted adviser” are words that are most often used to define a mentor. To expand a bit, I view mentors as people who empower others by providing guidance and encouragement for growth. Several mentors have come in and out of my life. They generously shared their knowledge, served as role models, and positively influenced my values, career and personal growth.
My parents were my first mentors. Their mentoring provided the foundation for my values. They owned a grocery store where everyone felt welcomed. My parents’ actions taught me to accept all sorts of people by keeping an open mind and appreciating their differences. They showed me how to be open and friendly, and how to treat others respectfully. Most importantly, they demonstrated how to make everyone feel like family.
My mother was an artist. She encouraged me to create and invent, which included putting up with my many “kitchen experiments.” My dad was a politician and a passionate debater. He helped me to see both sides of an argument. He encouraged me to step up and have voice, not only for myself, but also for others. Most importantly, he taught me how having a good sense of humor and causing a little bit of trouble will make people want to be around you. These values transcend to people skills, which have served me well in my various career roles with regard to customer service, networking and team building.
I have had other mentors who helped to shape my career. One gentleman that immediately comes to mind is Herb Billette. I met him when I was working at Biddeford’s City Theater. I was in my late 20s and he was a retired purchaser for the Brockton School System. Herb shared his knowledge freely, and taught me how to prepare a project effectively and professionally. His guidance provided me with the knowledge and courage to take on the restoration of City Theater, as well as oversee major repairs to Biddeford City Hall. Sadly, Herb passed away a few months ago. He was an amazing mentor who provided me with a skill set that elevated my confidence to develop and manage challenging high profile projects.
When it comes to personal growth, I would like to acknowledge a previous and a current mentor. The previous is Gail Roller, a retired gifted and talented teacher, who will likely never retire from mentoring. Her compassion for teaching and grace under pressure are traits that have been benchmarks for me. Her guidance and support through my sons’ school years were invaluable. She inspired me to continue to move forward in difficult situations and to always look for opportunities to enhance personal growth. When I told her I was applying for my current position as director of admissions at St. Andre Health Care, she was the first to offer to write a letter of recommendation and to help me with updating my resume. My most recent mentor, Mary Danis, is my colleague and director of social services at St. Andre Heath Care. She is a woman who recognizes, motivates and encourages other woman to succeed. I tend to be a workaholic and she has provided me with reminders about setting boundaries.
I have had the privilege to work with many wonderful mentors who have influenced who I am today. I love to learn, so I expect I will continue to come across new ones, and am always looking for opportunities to act as one.