Recently, over dinner with one of our partners, I was reflecting on how I made the transition from being a shy, awkward college student with no real direction into an early career in policy at the Texas legislature. Those years at the legislature were fundamental to my professional development, and helped me learn skills in policy and program development, facilitation and conflict resolution, research and writing, and networking and relationship building. All of these skills have contributed to my success at HORNE and enabled me to provide better service to my clients.
What I had not thought about in quite some time, but which hit me like a ton of bricks, is that my entry into the professional workforce and my subsequent growth and success was guided by a phenomenal mentor in the right place at the right time. After the messenger position I was pursuing fell through due to a scheduling conflict, I wandered into the legislative office in my oversized, underpriced pantsuit with a bewildered look on my face, and the Chief of Staff agreed to give me an internship. What a stroke of divine intervention! This Chief of Staff had worked her way up to become a powerful force for a senior House member and had influenced decades of public policy in Texas. She not only took a chance on me, but she truly served as a mentor and guide, teaching me the basics of how to be a professional and investing in my training and leadership development. I don’t know what my life would have been like without that crucial first opportunity, coupled with meaningful support and encouragement.
Now that I am further in my career and have the opportunity to guide and help others, I realize how important mentorship can be. It can literally be a lifeline to young talent—especially for those from diverse backgrounds who do not come from traditional networks of power or influence, which are often key to getting those first door-opening positions. But it is equally important for mid-career professionals seeking continued growth.
At HORNE, we are intentional about formal sponsorship programs and informal mentorship and are committed to a culture where those relationships provide the leverage to result in meaningful opportunity, personal growth and career advancement for our team members. From our internship and recruiting programs to our management and senior leadership positions, our focus on feedback, collaboration, and helping each other as part of our “One Team One Direction” philosophy means that we both receive guidance by those ahead of and alongside us on the career path, and must dedicate time to those who are coming up behind us. With a little shine, that awkward college student can transform into a valuable part of your team.
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