Mentor (def): A professor, a manager, a parent, a friend. Mentoring can take on many different forms, from an upper level executive who gives career guidance to a close friend who lends advice during difficult situations.
Here at C&A Industries, mentors are found around every corner. I’m 8 weeks into my summer internship and I’ve found that each person I encounter throughout the organization is constantly looking to help other employees grow and prosper in this encouraging environment. The culture here is that of a team and, on a team, everyone must contribute and actively help other team member’s reach their full potential.
From the start of my internship, I quickly learned that professional growth and delving into my specific career goals would be an equally impactful component of my experience as the work I would be doing on a daily basis. Members of my department, leaders of the internship program, career development experts, and even high level executives have made themselves available to me for questions, advice, and guidance. I have learned through my time in college that though you can gain knowledge in the classroom, some of the best learning opportunities come from hearing about the successes and setbacks mentors have gone through. I knew I had to take advantage of this unique opportunity and I quickly found mentors through many different avenues.
1) Members of my department.
I have spent the past eight weeks as the corporate marketing intern. I am a Marketing major and have previous internship experience but many of C&A’s programs, terminology, and marketing skills were new concepts to me. Every member of the Marketing department has served as a mentor to me in some way or another. They are constantly going out of their way to spend an extra minute explaining something to me, allowing me to develop many new skills throughout my time at C&A. They have helped me advance my marketing skills, they understand the best way to utilize my talents, and have given me confidence that I can succeed in a corporate marketing role.
2) Internship coordinators and my peers.
C&A’s Skills for Success Internship Program sets itself apart from other internship programs by its deep investment in the interns each summer. We have been given the opportunity to develop professionally in weekly seminars, give back to the Omaha community through service projects, and make connections throughout the company and beyond. Most importantly though, the internship coordinators and my fellow interns have pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me shift the way I see things by giving me new perspective. The interns throughout the program all come from different universities, backgrounds, and areas of study yet we are all united under the common goal of pursuing excellence in our careers. Collaborating with this intern group has allowed me to view situations from a different angle and they have continually inspired me with the work they are doing in their desired fields.
3) Executives in the company.
From the top down, C&A employees serve as a support system for one another, creating the positive culture that is contagious. Top level executives are not just available but they are eager to share the secrets to their success and how they overcame challenges throughout their career to rise to the top. The benefit employees receive from the relatable nature of C&A executives is immeasurable and a major reason C&A stands apart as an organization. The interns recently had the opportunity to have lunch with top executives within the company. Scot Thompson, the CEO of C&A Industries, told our intern group that the greatest advice he can give to aspiring young people is the one thing you can control is how hard you work, so make sure you are the hardest working person in the room. I think this motivated all of us to continue putting in the time and effort necessary to achieve our lofty goals.
So, must all successful business professionals have mentors? In my experience and especially throughout my time at C&A I have found the answer to this question to be an overwhelming yes. To learn how to lead, one must have been led at some point. And this leader must have made some sort of profound impact, instilling confidence and tenacity in their mentee. Every chance you get, seek out people who have found great success and who, at times, have suffered great failures, and simply learn. Listen to their words and learn from their mistakes. Take advantage of the opportunity to benefit from the advice of those with greater life experience than you and with this key, unlock the door to success.