Mentoring Engages Members
“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done,” notes Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize winning author.
While CREW-St. Louis offers numerous networking opportunities among colleagues, the real benefits of mentoring were brought to life in 2018 when a formal Mentoring Program was launched. Supported by CREW Network’s comprehensive Mentor Guide, which includes modules to Engage, Envision, Empower and Expand, the chapter’s third program kicked off on April 3 with a conference call among participants.
The actual program begins on April 22, with an official launch party for mentors and mentees. Steve Epner, founder of The Start Up Within, past chairman of the Gateway Venture Mentoring Service, faculty member in St. Louis University’s graduate business program, author and lifelong entrepreneur, will once again share his insights on the mentoring process.
Two participants in the second Mentoring Program also shared their experiences and accomplishments. You may be surprised that both are accomplished professionals, with longstanding careers, who saw a need to expand their skills by participating in a formal program.
A highly respected real estate attorney for more than 25 years, Lynn Goessling, wanted to serve as a mentor. She was paired with her mentee, Jen Nevil, who has two decades of experience as an interior designer.
Lynn had established CREW-St. Louis’ program when she served as the chapter’s president in 2018. Yet, she wanted to experience the program firsthand. More importantly, she believes that it adds to her capabilities as a leader.
“Learning how to be a good mentor gives you invaluable experience,” says Lynn, who is a partner in the St. Louis office of SmithAmundsen. “Everybody needs someone to talk with that’s unbiased and not within their inner circle,” she adds.
Jen felt a need for a mentor since she was promoted to a studio director at Lamar Johnson Collaborative. “I was transitioning from a buddy to a team leader,” she says. “I wanted general business advice to help with this transition.” Jen never went through a formal program previously, so she felt the structure would enable her to find a trusted partner to support her with ideas, thoughts and often candid advice.
The duo of Lynn and Jen checked off all the boxes as the program committee reviewed their criteria. Both wanted someone outside of their career field. Both wanted some flexibility in their scheduled meetings. Their applications also showed that their personalities matched.
As part of the relationship, they leaned on the CREW Network modules. “These modules are great springboards for conversations,” Lynn notes. “It enabled us to focus on self-discovery and understanding priorities to advance your career.”
With the modules as a springboard, Lynn and Jen worked diligently to schedule their monthly meetings. That’s where flexibility supported each other’s busy work and home schedules. They didn’t meet on the same appointed day or the same appointed place. Instead, they found it better and more enjoyable to have coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner or a Happy Hour.
As the mentee, Jen kept the calendar moving, making sure it met Lynn’s schedule. Plus, Jen directed the topic of the day, but Lynn also left a meeting by asking what Jen preferred to focus on next.
Over the course of the year, each believes they accomplished their primary goals. Jen gained more self-confidence to lead her team. Lynn found that mentoring provides self-satisfaction in knowing that she helped Jen move forward in her career. As a bonus, Lynn discovered that Jen offered advice that proved helpful in her own career.
It more than worked out. The two plan to continue their relationship to support their professional and personal lives. “It’s morphed into a confidante relationship,” Lynn says.
Any CREW-St. Louis member would benefit from the program, Lynn and Jen note. Their advice remains true to what they discovered. “Dive in. Be open to vulnerability. And trust each other,” Lynn says. “It’s critical to be honest even if the other party may not want to hear something. These are the hard conversations you must have.”
They both take Diaz’s words to heart on the value of mentoring getting the real work done. Jen will serve as a mentor this year, and Lynn spearheads the 2020-2021 program and task force charged with pairing up mentors and mentees.