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In my previous post, I talked about how asking for help can lead to mentorship. Here is a story about how mentors can come and go in our lives and how they are a crucial piece of our professional and personal journey.

As a freshman at Ohio State, I was a small fish in a big pond. This was in stark contrast to being the big fish in a small pond for most of my life up until that point. Early in my freshman year, I attended a women’s networking event. I had no concept of what networking meant. I grew up in a place where I knew most people, and the concepts of small talk and asking people about themselves came naturally to me.

At this event, I was introduced to an administrator named Kathy. She was very kind and I could tell there was something special about her. My earliest networking trick, and one I still use today, is connecting through geography. I told Kathy I was a from a small town in northwest Ohio called Republic. She looked at me and laughed. She was from a nearby town in the same county. While we are a couple of decades apart in age, the stories and people were still the same. In that moment, Kathy became a sign for me of what is possible. If she could come from a small town and make it on a big campus in a big city, so could I!

Kathy left the university soon after to pursue her own business and we lost touch during the remainder of my undergraduate time. Fast forward seven years when I returned for my MBA. One of the first people I thought about connecting with was Kathy. She was in a career I admired and I wanted to learn from her. Despite not having been in touch for some time, she was happy to meet. We kept in touch during my graduate degree, and subsequently fell out of touch as I began my post-MBA job and started a family.

When I emerged from my sleep-deprived haze of early child rearing, I was in need of some mentorship. The first person I thought of was Kathy. She was one of my early supporters as I brainstormed launching Small Town Leadership. She was my first podcast guest when I decided to co-host a show. She has always been open with advice, guidance and motivation. She also has given me the straight truth about being an entrepreneur, raising kids, and supporting an equally career-minded spouse.

I had no idea when I stepped into that networking event my freshman year that I would end up with a mentor for life. Kathy and I never signed official “mentoring papers” or agreed to a specific cadence of meetings. What we have done is been open to connecting when we have needed it the most.

Who was your first mentor? How did your relationship unfold? I’d love to feature successful (or not-so-successful) mentorship stories in an upcoming post. Reach out to me at!

Does seeking out a mentor make you nervous? If so, reach out to me. I help people uncover their network gaps and devise a plan of action. I’d love to open your eyes to the possibilities of letting people into your life – whether for a single coffee or a long-term mentorship.

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Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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