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How Leaders of Tomorrow Grow and Give Professionally

During a time when “community” translates to the faces you see on Zoom each day, growing your career through networking may seem like an insurmountable task. But cultivating community personally and professionally can be essential to advance your career.

That’s where 92Y comes in. 92Y is a community and cultural organization in New York City that brings people together through programs in the performing arts, education, culture, and professional development.

Members of the nonprofit’s “Emerging Leadership Council” teamed up with SoFi to share how they built their careers, made tough decisions, and connected with mentors.

The panel discussion, led by Ashley Stahl, featured:

•  Abigail Nintzel, chief of staff at Revlon

•  Joshua Bronstein, senior vice president and wealth advisor at Neuberger Berman

•  Philip Krim, co-founder and CEO of Casper

In an hour long discussion, these workplace leaders talked about the delicate balance of giving and growing, asking for help, and how unique skills set people apart.

Everyone Has an ‘X Factor’

No two people have the same career trajectory, and while not everyone recognizes it, we all have an X factor that sets us apart from one another.

“I started my first company in college,” Krim, a serial entrepreneur, said. “I’ve always embraced risk and the unknown, I tend to lean into that side of things.” Krim has always been surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit, but he thinks that anyone can cultivate the same attitude.

“You can control your destiny. You can always decide you want to go do something different than you’re doing today,” Krim said. It’s about changing your mindset and challenging expectations.

Nintzel, with a career spanning different roles at fashion and cosmetic giants, admitted that she didn’t have a long-term plan in place.

“I definitely didn’t know what I wanted to do in high school or college,” Nintzel said. “I’ve never had a clear five- to 10-year goal. I kind of operate on a one- to two-year, checking in somewhat regularly with myself.”

It’s that nimble mindset that Nintzel thinks set her apart in her career.

Bronstein never had a doubt that he wanted to pursue a career in financial services, “but it had its twists and turns,” he said. By taking on different roles and learning on the job, Bronstein came to find his passion for finance intertwined with philanthropic service.

He came into that role with curiosity, a trait that he said has affected his personal life and professional career.

Networking in a Brave New World

As remote work becomes the norm, networking and connection are challenges for many in the workforce. Chance encounters at the coffee pot have been replaced by Zoom calls and emails.

It doesn’t mean reaching out has to stop. Pandemic or not, “the key is just perseverance,” Krim said. “Lots of people you try to connect to will blow you off or disappear.”

Trust that eventually you’ll find a good connection over LinkedIn or during an online event if you just continue to put yourself out there.

“Have the right attitude,” Krim said. Not everyone will be the right fit, and no one owes you their time.

Nintzel also suggested looking for structured opportunities within a company. Many corporations have mentorship programs or can suggest networking groups. All you have to do is ask.

Looking for Mentorship? Prioritize Authenticity

In a time of limited in-person interactions, the panel acknowledged the challenge of keeping up with, or even starting, mentor relationships. It’s a lot to ask a person face to face to be a mentor and could be even tougher over email.

For Nintzel, it’s not the ask that’s the issue. “I find I’m better with these relationships when I’m genuinely interested in what a person is doing, and I want to get a drink with them to learn more.” In her experience, mentorships fall into place when they’re genuine connections.

Plus, “make the offer a two-way street,” Nintzel said, meaning make sure you’re giving something in return.

Before the days of LinkedIn, Bronstein made this kind of relationship a priority. He’d keep track of outreach with an old-school Excel spreadsheet, noting who he shared interesting articles or job postings with, or which mentor was due for a check-in.

Social media might make the spreadsheet irrelevant, but the effort is still essential, Bronstein said. Make it a point to reach out to mentors and your network not only when you need something but also when you have something to offer.

If working with a certain mentor brings a sense of dread or lack of interest, that person might not be the right fit. Some might think of working with and keeping up with mentors as a chore, but like any relationship, everyone should be excited to engage in it.

Krim said that not all mentorships will be a formal relationship.

“I try to reach out to different folks who are really good at something I want to learn more about,” he explained.
Even joining an organization that brings together smart, diverse, and talented people can be a way to engage in casual mentorship.

Growing in a Career: No Move Is Too Small

It’s hard to envision career growth right now when communication online can feel stilted or limited. But that doesn’t mean careers have to go on hold. There are ways to communicate with leaders in the workplace and set yourself up for growth.

“Do good work, over communicate, and people are more inclined to help you right now,” Nintzel said.

While many of us think it’s the big tasks that set us apart and put us in line for a promotion, the little things count too.

“There’s no task too small, especially early in your career,” that could help you progress, Nintzel said. In some cases, it’s just as important to help set up the weekly meeting as managing the next big client project.

Plus, those little tasks add up. A few small career jumps can equal one big hop. Managers and bosses will notice when team members keep stepping up to take on responsibility.

The Takeaway

Becoming a leader requires a balance of professional and personal growth. As the panelists at the 92Y talk pointed out, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a mix of personal investment, community building, and workplace networking.

To be a leader tomorrow means investing in personal growth today. Luckily, SoFi is here to lend a hand. SoFi members have free access to career tools and one-on-one career coaching.

Sign up in the SoFi app to start your professional journey today.

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