I recently attended an open house for Step Up Women’s Network; a wonderful organization that works to “empower teen girls from under-resourced communities.” Through after-school programming, mentoring, panels and workshops, Step Up provides networking opportunities for teens and young professionals.
The evening reminded me that we can set the tone for the generation behind us. Step Up CEO Jenni Luke says, “The factor that changes a powerful scene of connection at a meeting of women into a game-changing moment with broader implications, is when the participants share honestly and vulnerably, and when you add a teen girl or young professional as an observer.” The more real and accessible we are, the more effectively we can lead by example.
In fact, when asked if professionalism can be taught, Luke suggests that “more precisely, it can be modeled.” I’ve talked a lot about mentoring this year and those relationships are the primary way Step Up propels women forward. Luke’s charge to mentors is bold: “I challenge myself to continue to mentor and role model from this perspective: be open, be honest, share my vulnerable moments, continue to grow and stretch myself, move through fear, celebrate successes, share my vulnerable moments and walk the walk.”
To walk the walk in the presence of a mentee lets them witness the details of our lives; the small efforts that make up an accomplished career.
One of these skills that I deem most important to career development is the art of follow through. This task of closing the loop falls to the person who establishes the need. If an important contact offers to grab coffee, make an introduction, or look at a work sample, it is up to you to coordinate and see that offer through. Listening throughout the process will serve you well when you follow up. A sincere interest in the other person might prompt you to point out ideas or links you know they would appreciate.
A thoughtful thank you note is essential. Its contents should be clear and concise with context for how and why you are in touch. At Chaloner, we are constantly reminding candidates to follow up directly after interviews; not only with the person you met with but with all of the people who arranged the meeting (the recruiter, the HR person, a personal contact). Of course, there is room for originality in your communications. Your mentor can show you how to be a polished professional and an individual.
As is true with a candidate’s relationship to a recruiter, the mentee is responsible for maturing their connection to a mentor. Luke encourages, “It’s up to the mentee to continue to drive the relationship. Be diligent about keeping in touch, updating your mentor on your progress in desired areas of growth and identifying new challenges.”
Thanks to Step Up for closing the loop and inviting us to take part.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.