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The power of mentoring and networking

01/24/2022 8:14 AM | Emily Lowther (Administrator)

by Kristen Spargo, MHSCN board member

As healthcare communications professionals, we often plan our pitches around awareness months. So in that spirit, MHSCN is celebrating mentoring this January, as this month is (drum roll…) National Mentoring Month. The effort started in 2002, to promote opportunities to build connections between young people and adults. Professionally, mentorship is invaluable, particularly as you start your career.

My first boss Charri Boykin-East taught me the importance of having different skill sets on a team. I remember sitting in her office overwhelmed by my inability to calm the chaos of my scattered desk — and brain. My colleague Jesse was an unflappable paper processor. To reassure me of my self-worth, she said: “Spargo, if we had a team full of Jesses, we’d never have a creative idea — and if we had a team full of Spargos, we’d never make a deadline.”

In the 27 years (gulp) since that first “professional” role, I’ve had countless mentors — and been a mentor to others. But as a consultant, I’ve had to seek out opportunities to pay-it-forward from a mentoring perspective; my dog is uninterested in my acquired wisdom.

An opportunity came in early June 2020, as protests erupted around the murder of George Floyd. Just as I was acknowledging — and seeking to correct — the lack of diversity in my communications network, I saw a post by Clayton Bradbury, a young Black Metro State recent graduate giving some “tough love” to the PR industry for being “depressingly and overwhelmingly white.” I reached out to Clayton and his friend and Metro State classmate Tiffany Tolliver, who had commented on his post.

Clayton wanted to pursue freelancing and consulting. So I shared sample proposals, offered client advice and brought him into a project. Tiffany was pursuing a full-time job, so I forwarded job leads, introduced her to contacts, reviewed her resume, and did a mock interview. She updated me on jobs she was applying to, and if I knew people at the company, I connected her to them.

Tiffany impressed me with her optimism and perseverance in her job search. I admit I was frustrated: organizations across the Twin Cities were declaring a commitment to diversifying their workforce, and here was an exceptional candidate, who just needed that first job after completing her degree as a nontraditional student. She eventually landed a role this past summer at RBC Wealth Management-US and gained experience as a Corporate Communications intern. In December, she started a full-time position with HealthPartners, joining our ranks as a health care communications professional. (Welcome to the field, Tiffany!)

To celebrate Tiffany’s new job and provide continued access to professional development and networking opportunities, I’m giving her a membership to MHSCN. If you have a mentee, I encourage you to do the same. In the coming months, we’re building the functionality to purchase a membership for someone else on the MHSCN website. In the meantime, you can contact president Cory Docken.

Now that Tiffany has found a job, she is sharing her hard-earned job-seeking wisdom with others. She always emphasizes the importance of networking and keeping those connections strong. Her new boss Catherine Scott started her career on my team at Padilla 15 years ago.

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