Pay It Forward is a mentoring engagement program that pairs young professionals with executives from the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s member companies. Eva Wasko, Vice President of Public Relations at Allen & Gerritsen, recently shared her experience as a mentee with the Chamber in hopes that other young professionals in the region will take advantage of the opportunity.

The Chamber is now accepting applications for the 2020-2021 cohort through September 1, 2020 — apply now.

From our global health crisis to devastating racial injustices continuing throughout our country, 2020 has been a year of unrest and complex challenges, with uncertainty the only constant.

That’s why the opportunity to participate as a mentee in the Chamber’s Pay It Forward program couldn’t have come at a more significant time.

I joined the program in September with the primary goal of strengthening my voice in the metaphoric boardroom. But it quickly became apparent that this year isn’t about becoming a better Keynote presenter. As many of us have spent the past five months sharing news of furloughs on Zoom calls, counseling clients on social media crises, and addressing critical changes required in our hiring practices, I’ve realized that the most significant value of mentorship has been not about learning how to strengthen my own voice, but how to better learn and grow from listening to others’.

I’ve been lucky to develop a strong relationship with my mentor that will continue long after the completion of this program.

She and I come from different careers, cultural backgrounds, and stages of life. She teaches me about small business entrepreneurship, and I teach her about PR. But more than that, we’ve spent the past year getting to know each other, what we’ve achieved, and how we approach our work. Conversations with my mentor and the program’s group activities have helped me view my professional world through different lenses — and I encourage other young leaders to take advantage of similar mentorship opportunities in your own careers.

Hopefully you’re as fortunate as I am to have inspirational leaders in your field with whom you get to work every day. But mentorship programs like Pay It Forward are invaluable for matching you with leaders whose career paths you might not have otherwise crossed. And when you can benefit from hearing new voices in seemingly unrelated fields, suddenly the fear of uncertainty is replaced with an excitement to achieve something new and a broadened perspective.

Now more than ever, young leaders need to understand how to adapt in a world that is changing by the day.

When “normal” no longer exists, you gain every benefit from a shakeup in the list of “normal” places where you seek guidance. Having the opportunity to learn from a diverse range of voices outside of your own field helps you navigate change more seamlessly and introduces you to unexpected perspectives that make you a more effective and empathetic leader. For me, the Pay It Forward program provided that opportunity at a critical point in my career and in the world.

Pay It Forward pairings are made based on personal and professional goals and interests, competencies, experience, and expectations. Mentors are high-level executives from Chamber member companies, and mentees are young professionals who are engaged with the Chamber, usually either through Chamber member companies or through YPC. Non-Chamber and Non-YPC members may also be considered for the program.