Memorandum: Ruwena Healy, CEO of Birmingham’s Marketing 24/7 Inc.

RUWENA_HEALY_7826236.JPGRuwena Healy, CEO of Marketing 24/7 Inc.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — With the graduation season coming to a close and a surge of new young professionals preparing to enter the workforce, it is an important time to consider the importance of serving as a business mentor.

The Birmingham regional business community is fortunate to have many influential and well-established professionals who are willing to share their wealth of knowledge.

“We all know that no one comes straight out of school knowing everything,” says Darlene Negrotto, president and CEO of Vulcan Park and Museum. “Mentoring is the most effective way I’ve ever found to impart years of experience to someone just starting out, whether it is a young professional or someone new to the field. Mentoring helps the individual and helps the industry you’re working in.”

Although traditional mentoring relationships often begin through a connection at a networking event or by becoming involved in a professional organization, Negrotto points out, the work place environment can also be a safe place to build strong mentor relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

“It can be a very healthy way to help staff members build up their own confidence,” she says. “This is best for the company or organization and best for the individual.”

Fran Godchaux of Operation New Birmingham also regularly serves as a mentor to interns in ONB’s office, but also through Momentum, a leadership program for women. Simply put, she says business mentoring is a matter of trailblazing. “Learning from the rest of us is how young professionals are going to get ahead,” Godchaux says. “We’re trying to build a group of leaders. They’ve got to be strong collectively.”

Godchaux is absolutely right. These young people can learn from us, but they must have access to us. Mentoring is the key to that access. But what is often overlooked in the mentoring process is what we take away from those we are trying to teach.

Last year, I met an exceptional young student, Emil Loeken, who just graduated from Jacksonville State University and is now entering graduate school. As appreciative as he was to have my input on the world of public relations, he was also wise enough to point out the reverse educational experience.

“It may be as simple as learning new ways to view old strategies,” Loeken says of strong mentor relationships.

But most importantly to these students preparing to enter the workforce is the critical connection to the business world. “While in school, most students do not know what is waiting for them in the business world,” Loeken said. “Especially in professional fields as wide as public relations. I just did not know what to expect.”

But he does now, as we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the industry and brainstorming on what his future may hold.

“Having a mentor during one’s final year of school is a wonderful way of painting a picture of what lays ahead,” Loeken said.

It has been a pleasure for me to be part this process with him. I hope all of our knowledgeable business leaders throughout the region will do the same for other young professionals.

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