I had a conversation with my daughter on the way home from school a few weeks ago. She is a bright, and inquisitive human being. She has skipped the 8th grade and was experiencing anxiety about the transition and newfound burdens of freedom and responsibility. She attends an all-girl school. “I wish the girls at my school would stop being so negative. Girls should be lifting each other up,” she remarked. “Sometimes the comments they make are so toxic. With all of the stress we are under in this world, why wouldn’t they just support each other?” As a mother, I wanted to soothe and protect her from worries; but as woman I saw this as a teaching moment.
“This is why I tell you to surround yourself with people who support you” I told her. “The reason you should make friends with people who inspire you, encourage you and who are honest about your flaws and faults but in a way that builds you and doesn’t tear you down.” This was a lesson that I learned early in my career but didn’t truly appreciate it until I became an experienced attorney. Having people in your corner to mentor you and encourage you to move forward in a positive way and who help propel you towards whatever goal you desire is critically important- particularly as a woman of color as we encounter obstacles on many fronts.
Since I was a young girl, people talked vaguely about “playing the game” in order to get ahead. But the truth is building personal and significant relationships with people who support you is the best way to make progress, participate in making decisions, and have an impact on others around you. That is the reason I always encourage young attorneys to hitch themselves to someone who can serve as a mentor, an experienced person who can provide guidance and support for choices and critical decisions. They help determine paths to meet specific career goals, while helping to guide professional development.
But sponsors are perhaps even more significant because they understand your skills and potential and they use this knowledge to orchestrate your advancement. They invest in your skills and contributions and advocate for your recognition because they know you are deserving. They create empowering relationships for you.
It just so happened that the day I had this conversation, I had been under a tight deadline and was feeling stressed. I had expressed this to a friend and a fellow attorney. I texted her that it was too much pressure. She simply responded, “That’s how you get diamonds.” With five little words, I was lifted and inspired. She was my candle in the dark. It’s that kind of inspiration that makes a difference in people’s lives. Ultimately, I explained to my daughter, “When women lift one other up, cheer each other on, clear the path for the next, we can all succeed. Inspire your friends and colleagues to do the same, because this will happen many times in your life. The stress and the pressure will always be there.” Our job in these moments is to simply make more diamonds.
Jill Dorancy is Senior Counsel at Jost Energy Law, specializing in oil and gas regulatory matters and energy-related litigation. She enjoys helping oil and gas companies navigate local, state and federal regulations and finding sustainable solutions to energy-related issues. Prior to this position, she was a Hearings Officer for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. In that capacity, she reviewed and presided over matters involving spacing, pooling, exception locations, unitizations and other oil and gas regulatory cases. She earned her J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law and her Bachelor’s degree from Binghamton University in New York. She holds a certificate in Petroleum Land Management from the University of Denver, Daniels College of Business. She is certified in Corporate Sustainability and Innovation from Harvard University Extension School. She is admitted to the bars of Colorado, New Mexico and Maryland.