Leveraging Opportunities

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By Taylor Clarkson, Leadership Coach at Rutgers University-Newark, Management Development Associate at Mondelez International

Taylor Clarkson, Leadership Coach at Rutgers University-NewarkWhen I signed up to be a Leadership Coach at Braven, I thought it would be a formal mentorship program where I would have the opportunity to advise and help Rutgers-Newark students grow professionally and personally. I was excited to have the opportunity to meet with my students face-to-face on a weekly basis and develop a strong connection. Once the program began, however, it became clear that Braven would also serve as a personal and professional learning experience for me, too.

In my fifth week in the role of Leadership Coach, I received an exciting opportunity: the chance to share a dinner with executives at my own workplace. The opportunity would allow me to make an important connection and potentially advance my career progression. It also meant I’d have to miss a meeting with my Fellows. I didn’t know what to do.

Taylor Clarkson's cohort in a group huddle

Being a woman of her word, my first thoughts were to get in touch with Christian McIntire, the Director of Coach Experience and Design at Braven. He gave me great advice: though this was, in ways, a “conflict,” it was also a learning opportunity for me and my Fellows. Braven has firm guidelines regarding attendance, commitment to the program, and the importance of fostering coach-Fellow relationships, but Christian and I reframed my opportunity as one my cohort could learn from. I was realistic. I informed my cohort that every day is unpredictable and may present itself with challenges or opportunities. However, taking from what we had learned in Learning Labs, it was our role to prioritize those challenges and opportunities based on what is aligned with our values and the goals we have set for ourselves. Using this framework, I was able to gain the respect, trust, and support of my cohort as they began to realize what the opportunity would mean for me.

As a result of my actions, I was able to secure a senior mentor who will help advise me in my career projections moving forward. The opportunity has changed my career trajectory for the better. I now have a window of opportunity to learn, be guided, and seek professional development from an inspirational leader in my organization. More importantly, the experience has influenced the way I continue to mentor my Fellows. I encourage Fellows to take advantage of every opportunity, each day, no matter how big or small because the result may be well worth it. I encourage Fellows to revisit the importance of prioritization in their own lives, to reflect on how they spend their time, and consider what opportunities they may be shutting off.

My advice to young people in similar situations is to not feel ashamed when you put yourself first. We all make commitments to organizations, work, friends, and family. However, there are some days when opportunities arise and doors open. My message to young adults is to consider yourself sometimes. Don’t feel guilty when you have to reprioritize your commitments and say no to previous engagements. The only way to progress yourself forward is to allow yourself to progress forward. As long as you are upfront, honest, and genuine, you have nothing to feel guilty about. It took this experience with Braven for me to learn to prioritize myself first and I am forever thankful for this life lesson.