Leading The Way Through Mentorship | Wendy Weatherford-Marks, Vice President, Corporate Communications & Marketing, Clear Channel Outdoor [Pt. II]

What advice would you share for helping a new mentor spot, train and elevate a rising star?

My friend and colleague, Dianna Jason, VP, Marketing, Meruelo Media, reached out to me a few years ago and asked if I’d meet with a young woman, Conner Calabro, who was interested in interning in NYC in marketing. I agreed to do so, and we met for coffee downtown at the now-defunct French Roast.

I was so impressed by Conner’s charisma and motivation, I agreed to keep in touch with her after the first meeting. She ended up landing an internship at Viacom, my alma mater. She was so excited! We met monthly during that summer and she shared her experience and project work. She was like a sponge, soaking it all in and reaching for more, more, more. Her enthusiasm reminded me of my own approach to interning at Viacom. You get what you put into it. And she was putting in everything she had.

Her hard work and persistence paid off. The final group intern project presentation she gave was a smashing success. I was so proud of her! She ended up leaving NYC and heading back to Tufts to finish her senior year. During the holiday breaks, she would reach out, and we’d connect again for lunch or coffee. She’d ask questions about what I thought her next steps should be after graduation, and we’d talk about her passion for tennis. She was the Varsity Tennis Captain and wanted to keep tennis a focal point in her life past graduation.

After Conner graduated (magna cum laude) with a degree in Media and Film Studies, she spent the late summer months working at the United States Tennis Association during the US Open in the Player Operations Dept. It was a dream job for her. But, once the tournament was over, the USTA didn’t have additional work.

Through networking, she found out about a Business Development Analyst position at a young asset management firm in NYC. She interviewed for the position. It definitely sat outside her wheelhouse, but she wasn’t about to close the door on an opportunity. She struggled, however, when they offered her a position. Did this mean she was turning her back on media and tennis?

Conner located a tennis position in Florida, but was told she didn’t have enough experience. She was disappointed, but knew in her heart she wanted to work and live in NYC. She wondered if she could support herself by coaching tennis and still afford to live in the Chelsea apartment with her roommates. She realized she couldn’t.

When we spoke about the decisions that loomed before her, I asked many questions about the asset management company. It was a start-up and well-backed. She said the people were nice and smart, which in my opinion is crucial. My personal experience with startups is that they offer a person so much more hands-on experience than a large corporation. Even if she only worked there for one year, the amount of business experience she’d gain would be invaluable. She said her dad told her the same thing. LOL!

Conner took the position and worked her you-know-what off, clocking in 70-80-hour weeks. It was too much and her heart wasn’t in it. When I saw her, she was exhausted. But, she always had her positive spirit. Intuitively, I knew she needed to start looking for a better fit and a role that provided better work/life balance.

I’m happy to report Conner’s found all of the above. She’s been at her new job for six months and was recently promoted to Manager in the Experience Marketing department at Wasserman. When I asked her how she’s doing, she said, “Job is great – loving it! I’m here full time now and really couldn’t be happier!”

I told Conner I’d been asked by the Advertising Club of New York to share some advice on helping train and elevate a rising star, which undoubtedly she is, and would she mind if I wrote about her. Sharing her response:

This blog sounds awesome and of course you can mention me. I’m so flattered you thought of me!

I believe that it would not have been possible for me to land where I am today in my career without the guidance, advice, and wisdom of you as a mentor. You and a few others have been crucial in my understanding of the workplace and how to navigate it, deciding when to pivot, and positioning me ahead of the curve in ways I didn’t even know existed had I not had my guiding stars – so I can’t thank you enough!! The cultivation of our relationship has felt natural and authentic, and I know I can really count on you to provide crucial insight on my big professional decisions.

Guiding stars, I wish you the best of luck on your journeys. Mentoring tomorrow’s leaders is one of the most important things we can do – sharing our experience. Knowledge is power!

*Please Note: All statements are the opinion of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of The ADVERTISING Club of New York.