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My Date with Speed Mentors

Vivia Chen

September 23, 2010

Honestly, I thought Sarah Palin might breeze into the conference room at any moment. That would have been a hoot. But to my profound disappointment, it turned out to be just wishful thinking.

Still, there were plenty of Republican luminaries at Bracewell & Giuliani's Manhattan office last Tuesday. So many, in fact, that I almost forgot that I was still in Manhattan.

BG Connolly, GiulianWeb There was Rudy Giuliani holding forth, telling the 80 or so women in attendance about the mentors in his life. Nearby were Dana Perino, the former White House press secretary under George W. Bush, and Susan Molinari, the former congresswoman for New York, who's now a lobbyist at the firm.

It could have easily been mistaken for a Young Republican tea (oops--let's make that "coffee"), but the event was speed mentoring for young women. Sponsored by the firm and Perino's public relations company, the program was directed at women under 30. Some of the mentees worked at the firm, but most were from other businesses, including some of the firm's clients.

Usually, my eyes glaze over when the subject of mentoring comes up, but I was curious about this event. First, I'm a fan of speed dating (alas, I have no personal experience) and think it's a great concept for business interactions. Second, I loved the fact that Republican women were behind the event. Clearly, conservative women are so much better at building their brand than liberal ones. I mean, who knew Christine O'Donnell of Delaware just a few weeks ago? (Did anyone even care about Delaware?) And now she's a bona fide star.

Despite the political pedigrees of the sponsors, the 20 mentors came from all over the map and voiced no political agenda. Among them were producers from CBS, Fox, and CNN; marketing executives; and managing directors at financial institutions. 

I sat in on some of the ten-minute sessions (the mentees, in groups of three to four, rotated from mentor to mentor). The one theme I heard over and over again: Don't be afraid.  Here's what some mentors said:

"Ask a lot of questions, and don't be afraid of appearing stupid," advised Juno Mayer-Senft, a compliance executive at Bank of America. And, she added with a wink, "always wear great shoes."

"Confront your fear of failure or your fear of making the wrong decision," said Suzanne McDermott, head of compliance at Halcyon Asset. "Take the chance, make some mistakes and grow."

"Women take on a lot," said Susan Smith Ellis, the CEO of (RED), a company that directs private funds to AIDS projects in Africa, "but don't be afraid to rely on others." She added, "If you raise the bar too high on yourself, you'll burn out."

But the one mentor who really laid it on the line was Barbara Jones, who's now editorial director of Hyperion Publishing. Having recently turned 50, she called her first plan of action: "Fuck You 50"--meaning developing the resources (monetary or something more spiritual) that will allow you to walk away from a job or situation you loathe. She also advised mentees to have a "Plan B"--that is, maintaining a skill that will ensure your marketability. For Jones, it's been her writing and editing (she had been an editor at More, Harper's, and Vogue, and was a founding editor of Real Simple). Finally, "make sure there's juiciness in your home life," she advised. "It could be a love of art, or having friends you can really trust."

I was still disappointed that Sarah Palin didn't show, but can anyone argue against injecting more juice into life?

 Related post: "Speed Dating and Business Development."

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger Vivia Chen at VChen@alm.com.

Photo of Dan Connolly (New York office Managing Partner), Rudy Giuliani, Dana Perino, and Susan Molinari. ((by Ben Ansen) 


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Giuliani is a great mentor. Ask the former clients at Giuliani Partners that he fleeced, which is pretty much every client.

If anyone knows how to become a fast buck artist, its Rudy.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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