I have hit roadblocks and stalemates this past year, not just in my career, but in life, each affecting the other immensely.

I had reached a point in my personal life where I was asking family and friends all the time to be a sounding board for my maritime queries, not fully realizing that they simply weren’t equipped for the job.

Looking for some career guidance, I initially joined Women Offshore’s mentoring program in August 2020, and I have had two incredible women mentor me thus far. I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up. To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect anything at all. I didn’t know whether to sign up as a mentor or mentee. It was sort of like an amazon purchase. “This looks neat! I’ll try it. If I don’t like it, free returns!”

After answering a few simple questions about my experience in the maritime industry and personal interests, I received an email from the program software, Mentorloop. I couldn’t believe it; the admins at Women Offshore had found an awesome dynamic positioning officer who had worked for a lot of companies I had canvased, and she had already sent me a message.

I felt really lucky, but I also felt a little nervous too. I had some anxiety about making a good impression. “What do I say? What do I tell her about me? How do I not ramble on about all my thoughts at once? Will my questions be goofy? Will she think less of me for this or that? WHAT IF WE DON’T EVEN GET ALONG?!”

Ok, so it was just some minor social anxiety about meeting someone I would undoubtedly look up to for the foreseeable future.

In this time of increased isolation, both physical and emotional, it has become more important to stay connected.

We had our first phone call and I could tell right away that she wasn’t just going to advise me; she and I would be great friends. I realized that I had been thinking about it all wrong. I had gotten the idea that because she was a mentor she was perfect, and as someone who has NEVER felt perfect, I find that perceived quality so intimidating.

But I didn’t need to feel uneasy about sharing my shortcomings with her.

She wasn’t there to tell me everything I was doing wrong and how to fix it. She was there to listen to me as a friend, guide me as a (sea) sister, and answer my questions with absolutely no judgment. She was personable and relatable in sharing her mistakes with me and how she learned from them, which made it easy for me to share my true thoughts, even the ones that I wasn’t proud of. She made me feel validated in all my thoughts, feelings and concerns, and helped me create constructive plans to further myself as a mariner.

In this time of increased isolation, both physical and emotional, it has become more important to stay connected. Both my mentors have helped me with links for further reading, job or company suggestions, connecting me with others who could answer more questions, and helping me pave a path for myself where I hadn’t had the stones to do so.

Being a mentee has become one of the most valuable things I never knew I needed. On International Women’s Day today, I want to thank my mentors at Women Offshore. You have made a difference, giving me an extra boost in life to go after my career dreams.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and was started in 1911. Today marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Learn more at internationalwomensday.com The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has also recognized IWD and invites you to pay tribute to an inspiring mentor as part of their #MyMaritimeMentor campaign. 

Julie Schaeffer

About The Author: Julie Schaeffer

Julie Schaeffer is a graduate of California Maritime Academy and holds a USCG unlimited 3rd mate license. Growing up sailing and boating imbued her with an early and deep passion for being on the water. In her free time, Julie cycles and volunteers with dogs. Her other loves are cooking, making people laugh, writing, scotch, horses, and senior doggies.

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