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Carrie Richardson, left, and Alexis Brown, work together at Ozarks Community Hospital, but they initially connected when Brown served as Richardson's mentor.
Carrie Richardson, left, and Alexis Brown, work together at Ozarks Community Hospital, but they initially connected when Brown served as Richardson's mentor.

Career Connections

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Steering a career in the right direction or pulling ahead of other applicants in a competitive job market can be a daunting challenge for young women, but the Springfield business community is full of businesswomen who are ready to share what they’ve learned through experience.

“It’s really important that women mentor our younger professionals because they’ve seen the obstacles, and they’ve lived experiences that have made them smarter and more adaptive in the workplace,” said Regina Waters, associate professor of communication at Drury University. “I think that that wisdom is really helpful to young folks who are trying to figure out where they want to go and how to get there.”

Waters also is the faculty adviser for Drury Communication Networks, a student chapter of the Association for Women in Communications. Every spring, Drury’s communications students can participate in a job-shadow day.

Waters said trust and open communication are key components for successful mentoring. Once those have been established, the mentee can open up about her dreams and anxieties, and the mentor can share her own difficult experiences or mistakes from the past.

Ongoing relationships
Former Drury communications student Carrie Richardson can trace the trajectory of her career back to her initial mentor contact during a school shadow day. After shadowing Alexis Brown, then communications director for The Great Game of Business, Richardson stayed in touch with Brown. Richardson said she was subsequently offered an unpaid internship, and then, a part-time position with Brown at Great Game.

Brown later went to work at Ozarks Community Hospital as director of communications. When she was promoted to chief operating officer, she offered the communications position to Richardson, which Richardson attributes to their continued mentor/mentee relationship.

“I am basically working for my mentor and learning from her which is a great experience, Richardson said.

Since that time, Richardson has come full circle by mentoring to other Drury students, who are working for her as interns or as employees.

Richardson learned from Brown that every project – whether corporate or community – is a learning experience, something she emphasizes to her mentees as well.

“In every project we do, we are trying to learn and every event that we have, we are evaluating what can we do better,” Richardson said, noting that she also stresses the importance of work-life balance.

Mentorship settings
Sharing insights through mentoring, however, isn’t limited to the workplace. Kristen Bright, a supervisor at accounting firm BKD LLP, is the treasurer of Junior League of Springfield, and when she needs help in that role or at work, she calls on her mentor, Camille Lockhart, a partner at BKD.

“One of the reasons I joined BKD and volunteer organizations like the Junior League was to work with women like Camille,” Bright said. “I learn from her on an ongoing basis.” Members of the local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction make connections with girls between the ages of 12 and 18 through a mentoring program at Delmina Woods Youth Facility in Forsyth, said Heidi Morgan, president of NAWIC Chapter No. 366.

Morgan said NAWIC members encourage girls – many of whom already have faced intense difficulties – not to be intimidated and rise to meet life’s challenges.

“We really focus on how we are women and in a male dominated industry and how we succeeded and the hardships we had to go through to get to where we are in our jobs,” said Morgan, who is a project manager/administrative assistant at Killian Construction.

Every other month, NAWIC members meet with the girls to discuss different aspects of construction, such as estimating costs or how projects originate.

Morgan recently presented a slide show about the construction process, from beginning to end, of a Killian hotel project in La Vista, Neb.

As a result of the program, some girls have expressed interest in landscape design, interior design and architecture, Morgan said.

Reasons to mentor
Melinda Arnold, public relations director for Dickerson Park Zoo, and a member of the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, has tapped into her network of contacts to help her former interns and younger PRSA members who are looking for jobs. She also helps them if they need advice about job searches or understanding her industry. But for Arnold, it’s less about having a formal mentoring program in place than it is about giving others the same kind of assistance that helped guide her own professional journey.  “It’s trying to nurture someone and trying to help with the success of the next generation,” Arnold said. “I just think it’s important not to force your opinion or perspective but to try to provide guidance for what it is that person needs at that time.”

Waters said women who need mentors should join local professional groups and participate in fundraisers and community events to establish connections.

“I think that is how we make ourselves visible, and then we can start telling our story,” Waters said. “It’s just paying attention to those people who have good sense, good judgment, and who are
respected. Those are the people you want to invite out for a cup of coffee or out to lunch. That’s how you get going.”[[In-content Ad]]


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