How Going From Mentee To Mentor Helped Me Grow Professionally

In Behind The Scenes, Tips & Tricks by District Maven

As my business approaches its 8th anniversary, I can’t help but be a bit nostalgic. While my friends were at the bar celebrating senior year, I spent the entirety of my time working in my college bedroom. What started as a side project for extra beer money blossomed into a thriving career, and I owe Washington D.C. a great amount of gratitude for that. The District has been my home of choice for the better part of a decade and there is no denying that its impact on me has been profound.

But as I think back on my years here, it truly has been the people who have impacted me the most. Back in 2012, I wrote an article about the importance of mentorship and paying it forward (you can view it here). Since living in the DMV, I’ve been blessed to cross paths with some truly amazing and life-changing people of all ages. But my theory from four years ago still remains the same: sometimes the best mentors are those who are more experienced and successful, but within one’s age range. Advice always resonates more when given by someone you respect both personally and professionally. For me, my relationships with Annette Colflesh (Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center), and Glenda Fu (Dreams For Kids DC) have likely been the most impactful. We may not talk all the time these days, but there is no doubt in my mind that these people have been influential to the life and career I have today — for that, I will always be thankful.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself paying this form of mentorship forward whenever an opportunity presents itself. Initially, my efforts were prompted because it really just seemed like “the right thing to do.” I know first-hand how difficult it is to get started in the fast-paced, ultra-competitive media or marketing industries and how beneficial those influences can be. Plus, ignoring new, sheer talent in is just horrendous for business.

After working with a select few but truly ingenious young professionals, it became readily apparent that I was really fortunate for the relationship in more ways than one. Not only are these kids (I say that with love, guys) up on the latest trends and insights (whether they know it or not), but I find their hunger, ambition and observance to detail inspiring. As young, budding entrepreneurs themselves, in them I see kindred spirits. As they’ve graduated and moved on to other things, I find that it has been these people who’ve fueled my drive and helped me professionally grow the most in recent years. I will forever want to be a good example for them, in every way imaginable.

paying it forward

Since moving to Washington D.C., I’ve done many things that could easily be considered lifetime highlights. I interviewed celebrities during White House Correspondence Dinner weekend, attended countless events and even talked football with Speaker Paul Ryan. I’m also very pleased with the way my business and skill set has grown; something perhaps that only comes with time, persistence and age.

I am the most proud however, of the young professionals with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to work with in either an intern or mentorship capacity. Each one has gone on to bigger and better things, obtaining dream jobs far more grand than I ever would imagine for myself. I can’t help but smile every time I see a new post on Caroline’s NYC fashion blog Style Squad or finding a shirt she designed as Tory Burch’s intern at Neiman Marcus. It’s also impossible not to be jealous when Morgan is attending award shows and interviewing A-list celebs out in Hollywood while Tyler has a budding website design company he’s taking to Philly next year. In addition to feeling nostalgic pride for “knowing them when,” their success has kept me hungrier and more ambitious than ever. Their insight, endless drive and dynamic way of thinking has forced me to be at the top of my game, constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

I will always be grateful for my mentors that came first, but I now also know just how lucky I am to have these young professionals who have inspired me into the future..

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