When I was fresh out of college, I was pushed into leadership — literally. I was serving on the National Social Action Commission for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. At our national convention, the commission chair asked me and another recent graduate to give our report — with just 15 minutes notice. We hesitantly approached the mic, froze, then stumbled over our words. Eventually, I stopped talking and just stared at the audience, holding back tears. The chair stood up and took the mic. She gave us encouragement from the podium, asked the audience for positive reinforcement, and asked us once again to deliver the report. We delivered the report with a few stumbled words and certainly many missed points! While this was an embarrassing and uncomfortable moment, it was also one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I learned to always be prepared and ready to be put on the spot without notice! I wouldn’t be where I am today without people like that commission chair, Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, who has so graciously mentored me, and those who have given me the opportunity to mentor them.
There are two types of mentorships: formal and organic. I currently receive formal mentorship from Andrea Zopp, president and CEO of World Business Chicago, through Chicago Urban League’s IMPACT Leadership Development Program. Over the years, I’ve also organically developed relationships with leaders who now serve as my mentors. I have become a mentor to many others the same way.
No matter what position you hold, there’s always the chance to learn and bring somebody along with you. We each have the responsibility of being intentional about seeking mentorship. Not only that, we need to be ready to accept criticism and show our commitment to receiving mentorship.
I’m so proud of CAR and our focus on encouraging and providing mentorship opportunities. We recognize the need for more women in leadership positions, and we wanted to help current and budding leaders find the support they need to be successful. We recently presented a powerful women’s conference, Titans of Industry: Women Leading the Charge, in conjunction with the Women’s Council of REALTORS®. These conversations gave our members opportunities to learn from and connect with women in power, and it’s our hope that many mentorships will be born out of those introductions.
Our revamped pre-licensing scholarship program through the Chicago Association of REALTORS® Foundation now includes a critical mentorship component. This helps ensure our recipients are not just receiving financial support, but the professional guidance they need to thrive in the real estate industry.
Throughout the year, CAR will share different opportunities to get involved. When these opportunities arise, I encourage you to respond. Through these involvements, you can sharpen your skills as a leader, learn the fine art of giving and receiving feedback and find new ways to help those around you advance and reach their career goals.
When it comes to mentorship and leadership, it’s never too early or late in your career to get started. We each can benefit from asking for help and helping someone else along the way.