Young Professionals embrace vulnerability in professional development

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

Emerging leaders from around the Dallas Region gathered at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Tuesday, June 20, for a diversity, equity, and inclusion-focused event hosted by the Dallas Regional Chamber’s (DRC) Young Professionals (YP).

The event was designed to help up-and-coming professionals explore mentorships, sponsorships, and building relationships through vulnerability.

“We want to encourage each one of you to strategize, to take action, to leverage your relationships and community to gain mentors and sponsors,” said Latosha Herron Bruff, the DRC’s Senior Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement. “And, just as importantly, we want you to build a network of peers that you can trust, that you can learn from, that you can share ideas with, and that you can connect with.”

The event’s keynote was a panel of four young practitioners leading organizations with DEI-related missions. The panelists shared advice and lived experiences to illustrate what it means to find a mentor or sponsor and lean into vulnerability in professional relationships.

Stacey Cho Hernandez, Southwest Regional Governor of the Dallas Asian Bar Association and member of the Orchid Giving Circle, introduced the idea of mentorship and sponsorship to the group of attendees before offering some advice to those looking for sponsors.

“A mentor is someone who’s going to speak with you. A sponsor is someone who’s going to speak about you,” said Hernandez. “If you’re looking for a sponsor, what you have to be ready to do is be excellent. And whatever it is you do—whatever your profession is, whatever your job is—make sure you have the skill set to be excellent.”

Myi’a Sanders, Chair of the Social Cultural Committee of the DFW Urban League of Young Professionals, said that sponsorships vary from person to person, but all ultimately depend on the reliability of the one being sponsored.

“My most successful sponsorships have always been when I had some type of evidence for my work,” said Sanders. “Being prepared for whatever you’re asking for is so important because you’re looking for them to move. And so often, many people who are interested in sponsoring, they’re ready. And so, it’s important for us to be just as ready and prepared to make that move as well.”

Gaining sponsors and mentors can be challenging, but the panelists offered attendees encouragement in face of the hurdles.

“Speaking as someone who’s now fortunately in a position to mentor, but also someone who’s benefited from having mentors, you can’t be afraid to ask, and you can’t be afraid to look for them,” said Hernandez. “It is so important that you surround yourself with folks who you can trust to guide you and give you that real talk, real advice.”

It is important to note that opportunities, as well as sponsors and mentors, can come in surprising forms.

“Keep your eyes open for mentors because you’ll find them in unexpected places,” said Callie Butcher, Board Member and leader of Black Tie Dinner, Inc. and President of the Dallas LGBTQ+ Bar Association. “Oftentimes we gravitate to people who look like us, who are in positions that we want to be at, but that person might not always be the best mentor for you.”

Butcher shared that early in her career, one of her most influential mentors was someone who was almost the exact opposite of her. Despite the differences, however, the two bonded and Butcher benefited from the varied viewpoint.

Jose Carreon, Chair of the C3 Latino Young Professionals Marketing Committee, emphasized how important vulnerability is to open the door for future possibilities.

“When you start with, ‘here’s where I would like to get help’, and you take the windows of opportunities that they give you, I think the opportunities are endless,” said Carreon.

Following the panel discussion, the attendees were led by Elias Acosta, Vice Chair of the C3 Latino Young Professionals Programming Committee, in a workshop evaluating the role of vulnerability in seeking out sponsors and mentors.

“We are more than just our work selves. We are full people, and it is very hard to have real connections with your colleagues if you don’t understand what’s happening outside the walls of your office,” said Butcher.

This DRC’s Young Professionals event was sponsored by Thompson Reuters and Truist Financial. The DRC’s YP program engages more than 300 members, ages 22-40, who are committed to leadership development, advocacy, and community engagement. The program empowers up-and-coming professionals to build relationships and serve with community, political, civic, and business leaders.

Visit our website to learn more about Young Professionals.

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