When Valerie Spinosi Kimbrough, BBA ’12, was getting her undergraduate degree at Temple University’s Main Campus, life was busy.
“I was a commuter student who also worked while going to Temple,” she says. “I didn’t have too much additional time for building outside networks.”
Since then, Kimbrough has used her planning and strategy skills to grow her career and expand her connections. Now she’s ready to advance even further.
She joined ProfessionOWL Young Alumni Mentor Program, the new alumni-to-alumni mentoring program offered by the university’s Alumni and Constituent Engagement office.
“I wanted to make sure that I’m kicking things into overdrive and I thought ‘Why wait?’” Kimbrough says. “It’s a good time to do it now. I’m young, I have a lot of time to dedicate to working on my career.”
Helping others succeed is a core value of the ProfessionOWL program run by Tyra Ford, director, Temple Professional Network, and Katie Sampson, BYR ’11, associate director, Student and Young Alumni Engagement.
The venture connects a seasoned alumnus (a ‘wise Owl’) with a more recent graduate (a ‘young Owl’). The two, joined by other pairings, participate in the mentorship program that includes personal outreach, dedicated workshops and other activities as planned by the mentor and mentee.
“The goal for the program is to find young alumni stars, those who are doing really well at their current level,” Ford says. “These alumni have a couple of years of professional experience, long enough to know what they’re doing, where they want to go and are looking for a mentor to help them.”
There’s also an incentive for the mentors.
“Many times our alumni, especially those who have years of experience, have all this knowledge and experience,” Ford says. “They are looking for ways to give back and aren’t always sure how to do it.
“It brings the mentors back to campus and also gives them an opportunity to learn from someone younger than they are. What we are finding is that there really is an exchange, a back-and-forth between the mentor and mentee.”
The program was created after Ford and Sampson started reviewing responses to alumni surveys. A pattern emerged; alumni in both groups were asking about mentorship opportunities.
“In higher ed, mentorship programs are usually for alumni and students,” Sampson says. “But because of what we were seeing in the responses, we created this new program for young alumni and seasoned alumni.”
“The awesome thing about these pairings is that the mentor and mentee don’t necessarily work in the same industry,” Sampson says. “We looked at those traits that we were able to pull from the questions like ‘What are you looking for in your mentee or mentor?’ or ‘Where do you see yourself going?’ to make the pairings.”
While mentees come into the program anticipating opportunities for professional growth, mentors are pleasantly surprised that they are also learning along the way.
“I’ve learned two big things, which are kind of opposites,” says mentor Phil Argyris, BBA ’76, MBA ’80. “Younger professionals are more willing to look at opportunities outside their current environment and career. I think they have much more open minds to what they can do.
“On the other hand, I do see, just in talking with my own mentee and others, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Particularly when you talk about larger corporations and bigger companies, it’s the same types of issues I’ve had to wrestle with in my own career.”
Scheduled workshops, led by Professor TL Hill, managing director of Fox Management Consulting and the Center for Executive Education, are very popular among all participants. The opportunity brings the pairs together for discussion and team-building exercises related to a particular development goal.
“Some of the sessions we have had so far focus on strengthening your influence through communication at work and identifying what’s your personal brand,” Sampson says.
Those workshops have been a valuable experience for everyone.
“I love that not only are we mentoring but we are also getting guidance and leadership training,” says mentor Celeste Clancy, BS ’83. “I have to think about someone else and their development. It helps develop me as well and I bring that learning back to my own role at work.”
It’s the strong connection among the entire group that impresses mentee Joshua Finer, BBA ’15.
“The collaborative approach in these workshops is great,” he says. “You are in these smaller groups, but then the conversations are brought to the general group. Every person in the group is there because they want to be there.”
Kimbrough believes investment in her future is time well spent.
“It all matters,” Kimbrough says. “The networking, the commitments you make, it’s part of your life. The people you encounter in different stages of your career, you’ll see them again. They are coming around the block, so maintaining those relationships is really important, whether that be at school, at home, or in your career at work. It’s all important.”
How to apply
For more information on the ProfessionOWL program, including how to apply, go to alumni.temple.edu/professionowl.