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Working Women: Valerie Jarrett and the Importance of Mentorship

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Working Women: Valerie Jarrett and the Importance of Mentorship

The Michelle Obama Podcast


5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Michelle Obama talks with her long-time mentor Valerie Jarrett about mentoring from both sides of the desk.

Editorial Rating



  • Engaging
  • Insider's Take
  • Inspiring


In an informal discussion about mentoring on The Michelle Obama Podcast, the former First Lady and her mentor, Valerie Jarrett – a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama – discuss the development of their relationship. They delve into the importance of mentoring, which can take many forms, such as a program the Obamas developed for young people of color. As a leader and mentor, you can create a culture that supports your beliefs and helps those around you flourish at work. While you might not be aware that others emulate you, it’s likely someone does.


Mentors can have a tremendous influence on their protogés’ ability to fulfill their career goals.

When former First Lady Michelle Obama wanted to leave corporate law, she interviewed for a job with the city of Chicago. Her interviewer was Valerie Jarrett, then a city official. During their interview, Obama’s openness about being at a crossroads mirrored a question Jarrett had asked herself before she began working for the city.

Jarrett remembers Obama confidently walking into the interview and calmly revealing more of her personal story than was usual at such a meeting. Obama shared her personal story because she regarded Jarrett as a Black contemporary who shared her career trajectory. Obama believed if she weren’t open, she couldn’t expect Jarrett to be open. And, Obama reports, she felt as if she had nothing to lose by being candid during their interview.

“Bowled over” by Obama, Jarrett gave her the job, even though she didn’t have hiring authority. At a later dinner, Jarrett bonded also with former president Barack Obama over their common experience of growing up in other countries...

About the Podcast

Former First Lady Michelle Obama is an author, activist and lawyer. Her former boss Valerie Jarrett is an attorney and a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. 

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