You will always remember those women in your past who helped you. I do. There have been quite a few who either directly or indirectly are responsible for the woman I am today. The first one was Rhonda Baraka (back in the early 90’s). Rhonda and her husband, Tony were the owners of Atlanta’s hottest entertainment magazine, Tafrija. They hired me for my first official internship and put in the time and effort to grooming me. They also provided me with amazing opportunities. That one internship is singularly responsible for my career direction because one year, Rhonda hired an advertising executive from Madison Ave. who pulled me aside one day to inform me that I would make an amazing copywriter, a term I was unfamiliar with at the time (even thought I was a journalism major).
Rhonda made me want to be better.
A few years later, I landed my first official job at an advertising agency in Bethesda, Maryland. The firm relocated me from my home in Los Angeles. One day, while sitting at my desk and one of the Creative Directors, Christina called me and asked me to come to her office. She said I notice that you apologize a lot. Stop it. Why are you apologizing for not being able to take my call if I called you? Referring to my standard messages, “I’m sorry I can’t answer the phone right now…” Christina would go on to drop nuggets that have been immeasurable in my development and growth.
A few years later, I ended up working with a woman named Lavonia Perryman. She was no joke. I had just pivoted from traditional advertising into PR and needed to get some real experience. Well, she gave it to me. She put me immediately to work on a project with Maya Angelou and the King family. One day, during the time of faxes, I was having a hard time getting my faxes to get through because, “the line was always busy.” Frustrated and thinking that there was really no solution, LaVonia said, “it looks like you will be spending the night here. I bet they aren’t busy at 3am.” She taught me the importance of whatever it takes.
This year, just like last year, I have an amazing young, eager intern from Hampton University. She is smart, savvy and in need of guidance. What I’ve recognized throughout my career is most of the things that will catapult your career are intangible. So, I’ve made it my mission to “groom her properly” during our time together.
I believe that if Khyana Thompson returns to school this fall and is not performing, thinking and committed at the next level, then I haven’t done my job. So whether I am working with her on how to present or why it is critical to “keep her finger on the pulse of what is going on,” I’m thinking about is this making her better.
It is our job to groom the next generation of Undeniably Fierce women whether through a formal program like an internship or an informal situation, like your daughter. If we don’t do it, who will?
_________________________________________________________________________ Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at Jennifer@Brandidsp.com or www.PersonalElevation.com