Guest Commentator: Shakarr Hawkins, Construction Project Manager, Wawa, Inc. @Wawa

Young professionals should pursue mentor relationships because it can positively impact their professional and personal life. While I have always had mentors at various stages of life, by joining the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s Pay It Forward program, I was paired with my first professional mentor that gave me great guidance along my professional path. I believe that networking always has its perks, but by forming a mentor relationship, it gives both parties a better opportunity to get to know each other and learn what is needed or wanted.

Some short-term things I learned from the program are how to step out of my comfort zone and invite people to have a conversation with me. With COVID-19 and an increase in working from home, most people have been relying on Zoom and Microsoft Teams to connect. It was how I connected with my mentor every few weeks and I also connected with mentees that were in similar paths as me. Although meeting face-to-face would always be ideal, being able to connect virtually via video-chat has been a better way for me to connect instead of just email. I have also learned to take a different approach to networking. Instead of asking people “what can you do for me?” or vice-versa, I believe it is much more beneficial to get to know people, their interests, and their professional abilities. A connection will then be formed more organically and that networking relationship will change from feeling like you have to help someone as a responsibility to genuinely wanting to help them in any way possible.

The greatest thing I learned from my mentor, Sean Hand, was how to give myself time for the goals I am working on. Sean helped me understand that instead of looking at the end goal, I should look at the smaller steps that are necessary to help me get there. Since then, I have felt more motivated as I was able to accomplish smaller goals that will eventually get me to where I want to be. I started giving myself monthly goals and “homework” that was very manageable, but would keep me energized and excited. I believe a mentor relationship can be beneficial to young professionals, or any professional, in various stages in life and career. Every day is a new opportunity to learn and grow, and with the right mentor-mentee pairing, the opportunities are endless.

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