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My Unconventional Mentoring Story

We all encounter bumps in the road. A significant pothole appeared for me about four years ago when my marriage ended. My family had crisscrossed the country every three years for 15 years, making the career I desired impossible. Like many women in similar situations, I had made the very difficult decision with my spouse to support his career over my own. It’s funny how those moments of significant hardship can provide much needed gifts. Being on my own meant I was able to finally set down roots and begin the work-life journey I had always wanted. It was a terrifying yet thrilling time in my life, mixed with mourning and possibility.

My vagabond days had not been wasted. Beyond the joys of raising my sons, my time had been filled with serving as a part-time business consultant, starting a local political action committee, sitting on a town board, and leading the start up of a new parent teacher organization. I’d been honing marketing/leadership/business skills, just not in a conventional way. As I was taking stock of these assets I would bring to a company, a realization hit me. I had no idea how to use the new tools of marketing. This thing called social media was strange and confusing. Yet to be an effective marketing professional in today’s world meant becoming an expert in it!

What to do? Google it of course. Here is where the kismet, karma, luck – whatever you call it – kicked in. As I was scanning websites about social media training, up popped Roundpeg, an Indianapolis marketing firm owned by the incomparable Lorraine Ball. They were looking for a fall intern. Wait. I am 41 years old. But there are no quality social media classes out there. I am 41 years old. But I really need to learn these skills, and Roundpeg looks like they do them well. Would they hire a 41 year-old as an intern? Turns out they value the unconventional.

I interned at Roundpeg for 6 months, learning how to tweet, host a URL, build a website and write for the web. A remarkable 20 something named Allison Carter taught me how to apply my marketing skills to the digital age. At the end of my internship, I was immediately recruited for a job, and another soon followed. Less than 4 years into my new career, I started working full time at my own small business marketing firm.

Lorraine’s and Allison’s desire to teach this unconventional intern led me to achieve my dream. Lorraine still offers advice and direction. Alison tweets me when I make her proud. I only hope that as I mentor others I can offer them the value these two continue to give me.

What is particularly ironic about my internship at Roundpeg is that 15 years earlier, I completed an internship for my master’s degree at an organization I found in the yellow pages! Times really do not change all that much…