In this blog, Amy G., a chief of staff, shares why the Giving Season is important to her. During Vanguard’s Giving Season, crew members around the world join together to help brighten the lives of children, seniors, and families through a variety of activities including raising funds and purchasing toys, books, clothing, and necessities. The Giving Season is one of Vanguard’s many Community Stewardship programs through which crew donate their time, talent, and treasure to help communities have the best chance for success.
Ever since I could remember, my parents consistently instilled in my siblings and me the belief that “it’s always better to give than to receive.” One way my parents demonstrated this belief was to participate in a variety of community service events throughout the course of year. When I think back to those events, my mind is instantly flooded with positive memories, and many stemmed from our annual participation in a sponsor-a-child program. I vividly recall as a young child walking up to the Christmas tree at my family’s church to select a “wish kid,” typically a young girl close to my age, for whom I could help ensure her holiday was just as joyous as my own.
Branching out to Vanguard
In 2011, prior to receiving my undergraduate degree and launching into the professional world, I searched determinedly for an employer who was both well regarded in the financial services industry and also demonstrated a strong sense of commitment to community service—a trait central to my own personal values. Luckily, I did not have to look far from the Philadelphia region to find Vanguard, a company with many community stewardship programs that were positively impacting their local communities. One program in particular caught my eye, given the close significance to my childhood memories: Vanguard’s Giving Season.
Seeding more Santa helpers
Fast forward to 2019, I share with enthusiasm that I have participated in the Giving Season at Vanguard each of the last eight years, and that I have been joined by my members of my soccer team. Outside of Vanguard, you can find me on countless soccer fields as a female youth soccer coach for a local Philadelphia club. While I don’t have a specific number of games or tournaments I set out to win, I do have one very specific goal—positively impact as many young girls in the surrounding Philadelphia area, both on and off the field, as possible. I feel that it is my unspoken duty to use my personal experiences and leadership skills as a platform to help influence the lives of my players. I want to make my players better people, not just better athletes.
During each Giving Season, I volunteer my time by signing up to shop for 20 kids who have been sponsored by Vanguard crew, and each of my players has her own child to shop for. My team and I will venture to the local Target and begin a shopping frenzy. I’d describe it as organized chaos, but thankfully I have a group of soccer moms who assist in the process! Overall, my team has an absolute blast while learning the same lesson my parents taught me—“it’s always better to give than to receive.” The best part? When they begin asking if our team will be shopping for children in need again next year.
When I was a young kid, I wanted to be the Incredible Hulk. However, my desire to be a super hero was different than that of my friends at school because of one small nuance: I spent time with Hulk. I knew that he woke up at 5:00am every morning to do cardio, and some days I would join him. I knew that he liked to put black pepper on almost everything he ate. I had the opportunity most evenings to watch him lift weights, and WOW! He was strong. And the green paint? Well, that was just for television and public appearances. You see I lived with the Incredible Hulk… he was my dad.
I have a vivid memory of when I was about five years old: My father (a.k.a. Hulk) was doing bench press in the basement, and I could hear his exhale with each rep. And then it stopped. Next came a struggled yell for help, followed by my mother running down the stairs in a panic, and then two incredibly loud thuds. My mother helped him dump the weights. And for the first time in my life, I realized that everyone, even a super hero, needs help sometimes.
Your career is no different. Neither is mine. We all need help. I recently completed a fun exercise: I listed as many people as I could think of that have helped me in my 15 year career. In about 10 minutes, I wrote down the names of 94 people, and I could have kept going. The old saying is true, sometimes it does take a village! Among these individuals, there are a few who have had the greatest impact on my career due to their willingness to serve as my mentors. In keeping with the theme of seeking help, I’ve asked two of them, Vanguard senior leaders Marissa Blank and Steve Holman, to come alongside me to construct a guide on how to establish a strong mentorship relationship.
Engage with individuals naturally: The best way to build trusting relationships is to allow connections to occur naturally through your network. As Steve shares, “While formal mentorship programs can work, my experience has been the best mentor relationships happen organically. There has to be a deeper bond or connection to develop a relationship that allows both parties to go beyond superficial conversation and pleasantries.” Start meeting with leaders in your immediate department to discuss your career, and ask for ‘referrals’ on who they’d recommend you meet with. Over the course of time, you’ll get to know a lot of individuals and likely connect with a couple of them as ongoing mentors.
Be intentional about who you engage for different topics: In Marissa’s experience, “Each mentor I have in my network helps me with different things. Some are fantastic strategic thinkers, while others are great at vetting career options and next steps.” Connecting with mentors in this way will also allow you to go deep on important career topics rather than staying surface level.
Don’t be afraid to ask….for anything!: Sometimes fear is the only thing preventing us from moving forward, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. People generally want to help others succeed. “I have never had someone tell me no when I have asked for time.” says Marissa. I have personally experienced the same.
Come prepared with one key item you wish to discuss, and send agenda beforehand: This may be an obvious one, but it is one that can be often overlooked. Ensuring you are being respectful of your mentor’s time is important, especially if this is a new professional relationship where a friendship has yet to develop. In Marissa’s experience: “The mentor relationships that have been the most productive are those where the mentee comes prepared, whether they bring a thoughtful topic to discuss, provide an update on their respective business or share insight into their career planning.” Steve agrees,“Ask specific questions about where you think you need help. Seek insight about situations you’ve experienced. Don’t force your mentor to have to guess what you need.”
Don’tbe afraid to share your fears or failures: As Steve shares, “those are where your biggest opportunities for growth exist, and potentially where your mentor can help you the most.” If trust is established in the professional relationship, then this should be a ‘safe space’ to be completely honest, let your guard down, and get insightful feedback.
Be thoughtful about how often you meet with mentors: Marissa says, “I have some mentors where we only connect once a year or as something arises, where others are more frequent given the type of relationship we have.” You want to balance ensuring that your meeting time is valuably used with maintaining the relationship. For many, a couple of quick emails in between meetings can keep the conversation going without the logistics of face-to-face time.
Show interest in your mentor’s career: The more you understand their career, the more you will learn from them. And who knows, you may be able to teach your mentor something that helps them too. Marissa has a reputation for formulating successful teams, and I have indirectly learned from her to be comfortable ‘thinking outside the box’ when looking for talented individuals. Steve has an innate ability to balance professionalism with ‘being real’ and has taught me to feel comfortable bringing my full self to work every day.
I may never actually become the Incredible Hulk and save the world, but that’s okay… becoming someone’s mentor and positively impacting their life is just as fulfilling. In this season of giving, let’s show thanks to those who have helped us by committing to help others in their career.