“Everything my mentors said was correct,” said Crystal Rookard, now at Lander University. I introduced Crystal in a recent blog about women leaders who have touched the Carolina energy industry. Crystal shows that there are new ways to apply well-known truths her mentors taught.

Crystal is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law and has been in-house legal counsel in state government and at Midlands Technical College. Crystal is now General Counsel and VP of Legal Affairs at Lander University.

Question: When it comes to moving ahead successfully what advice would you give your 20-year-old self based on what you know now?

Answer: Life just happens so fast. I could never have dreamt I would be where I am. My advice would be to spend time on the interpersonal skills. Get to know others as people. Take time with them. They will not follow you otherwise. Build trust. People will not just come to you with information you need. You have to connect with them.

Practice self-care. People talk to me and they may have done well career-wise but they are unhappy. What is the legacy? Where is the passion? It has to get me going in the morning. Ask, “What am I supposed to be doing on this earth to make a difference?”

Question: How do women find and best use mentors?

Answer: That makes me think of the words, happenstance versus deliberate. You have to intentionally have a genuine interest in people. Have a heart for people. Lend a hand and help. I have tried to be deliberate in that.

My saving grace was mentors. They coached me. I remember one person helped me as a new lawyer. I was assigned a very demanding workload.  Some folks would shy away from that or.” Or become frustrated.”  I didn’t realize I was learning leadership.

I volunteered to help others with their caseloads. Did training, developed skills. When a position opened elsewhere, I was qualified, and it was exactly what I wanted.

Question: Ever been afraid of a job or project? What did you do?

Answer: At Midlands Tech it was the first time I had a staff. I felt so young, unsure about the nuts and bolts of human resources. And you’re dealing with people. It was not an easy process. Started listening and paying attention, watching the dynamics of the workplace.

I remember two people at work. One liked me, and one did not care for me. I had to learn how to work with both of them. Everything mentors said was correct. There are uncomfortable moments at work, and I did not want to interact. I had to.