Small Town Gen Y Girl Makes it Big!

Recently, a successful young lady, who I would regard as a “daughter,” (Oops, I just admitted I’m old enough to have a 28 year old daughter) was able to spend some fun time with me en route to visit her real mom. While the weekend was filled with spa services and exquisite dining, I also had the opportunity to gain insight into how she has been able to accomplish so much in her six-year career! Her story reminded me how important it can be for young people to consider, without judgment, the sage guidance of a loving parent as well as the advice of a devoted, career mentor.  I’m sharing her story, because, no matter your career path, your ability to be open minded to such guidance and advice, early in your career, makes all the difference!

This young lady, Amber, is an accountant who has quickly worked her way up to managing the finances of one of her company’s overseas locations.  And while money isn’t everything, she is currently earning over $100,000 US dollars. . . I’m sure you agree this is not bad for 28 years old.  So, for all practical purposes, she is doing very well professionally, and personally, in case you’re wondering.

So, being the curious minded recruiter that I am, I asked, “Why do you think you’ve achieved such success at your age?” . . .  (Keep in mind she is part of the famous Generation Y who takes heat for  poor work ethic, among other things.) She responded with, “I followed my dad’s advice, and I had a great mentor.”  Naturally, I asked for details on her dad’s advice, and I was surprised at her response.  After all, she grew up in a small town with blue collar parents who did not have a college education. She also had no executive role models, to speak of, and yet, she’s had this “executive presence,” about her, since the day we met.  As simple as it may sound, her Dad gave her the best career advice I could possibly imagine.  He said, “When you’re meeting with someone in a business situation, consider how your dress and grooming will be perceived by them (vs. what you think is cool or fashionable). What they perceive as professional may be different from you, and it matters!”  Now, I know a lot of you are thinking this is very old fashioned and quite simple, and perhaps, even judgmental. But frankly, if you asked me what I felt was the most important factor in succeeding on a job interview, I’d say your dress/image would be the most important.

As for the mentor, I was a bit surprised, as well.  Most people think of a mentor as someone you can go to with questions, and to get feedback, but Amber’s mentor, as it turns out, goes far beyond this. She says, “anyone can tell you what you should do to be successful, but a good mentor will actually sponsor you.  Naturally, I said, what do you mean by sponsor?  She said, my mentor went the extra mile to provide specific strategies and suggested activities to get me to the next level.”  She said, “With the mentor’s help, I could think bigger and see my capabilities and potential more clearly.   My mentor even did some of the research to find activities for me to pursue that helped prepare me for where I am today.”  Another component to this successful mentor relationship was the hard work she put into the mentor relationship.  She followed through and followed up, and she, at least, attempted every single suggested activity.

So if you aren’t making the progress in your career you would like to see, seek out a mentor who will go the extra mile, and “sponsor” you.   And don’t forget… sometimes parents actually do have great advice.  Staying open to it, even if it sounds old fashioned, may actually result in tremendous reward.  Yes, in my years of recruiting experience, I can confirm….Image is important, even in today’s world.  And it just might be true that what you think like, dress like and act like. . .  is exactly what you’ll become!