By Nzingha Williams, ECMC Foundation Fellow
Navigating this terrain of the “world of work” is very challenging. Young professionals are graduating college and going into the workforce without any idea of what it really takes to compete.
Many times it is very challenging to know who or what organizations to connect with so that you are successful. When I saw the opportunity to apply for the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program at ACTE - Sponsored by the ECMC Foundation, I jumped on it. I have attended ACTE’s CareerTECH VISION conference for the last two years and I appreciate how this organization brings people together from around the United States. They give people the opportunity to see best practices within career and technical education (CTE).
They challenged us to find a mentor the first weekend of the program. In my application, I stated that I was going to use my current supervisor to be my mentor (well, I was wrong). I must admit I was a little stubborn and closed minded in my thinking. However, I was challenged with getting out of my comfort zone once I met the amazing people that first weekend.
Within the first day, we met CTE professionals from different places and various backgrounds. I remember listening to one of the presenters as he shared his background and the first thing that popped into my mind was: “Ask him to be your mentor.” I must admit I was a little nervous to ask him, but when he offered his business card to the group, I was the first one to take it.
There were several things that really held my attention as I listened to him share with the group:
- He’d worked and lived in Charlotte, NC (my city...the Queen City)
- He is the former President/CEO of Charlotte Works (huge partner for my institution)
- He is currently the VP for Strategic Partnership and Workforce Innovation at an ASPEN prize winning community college (SUCH a big deal)
Not only did he have the expertise but he had the history with the “Queen City” that I need to really make genuine connections for my students (always about the students). It was vital that we connected! So, I sent him an email and he agreed to be my mentor. I knew I made a great decision during our first phone conversation. The first piece of advice he gave was “sometimes you have to tell your employer the position they need and create the space for yourself”...powerful right! In other words, do not wait for it, create it based on the work you do and the gaps you see impacting the students and the community. It was like he was advising me to have an entrepreneurial attitude within my organization so that I could have a greater impact.
What have I learned so far from this mentor-mentee relationship?
- Create the position
- Understand the world of policy
- Level up exposure (national and international)
Intentional selection is key when choosing a mentor. It would have been easy for me to use my supervisor as a mentor for this program. She’s amazing and we already have that relationship. However, it would not have been beneficial to the exposure this program has provided me by going with what is easy. I intentionally selected my mentor because of his connections, history, knowledge and skills; therefore, diversifying my resources and my rolodex.
Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Workforce Innovation
Northern Virginia Community College
About the ECMC Foundation Fellow
Nzingha Williams is a CTE Coordinator at Central Piedmont Community College - Merancas Campus. She is an ECMC Foundation Fellow of the Postsecondary Leadership Success Program (PLSP) at ACTE – Sponsored by the ECMC Foundation. The program is part of ECMC Foundation’s CTE Leadership Collaborative Initiative.