with diverse corporate supporters.
Although many of her relationships with mentors were informal, Richardson chose them carefully. “I gravitated toward people I felt had some level of experience in what I was trying to do,” she says. Her mentors included several North Carolina A&T professors and Quister Craig, dean of the school of business, who Richardson says was instrumental in helping her obtain the internships that led to her current job. After the first GE internship, Richardson was offered a second one for the following year. The company made its job offer after giving Richardson high marks in the second internship.
Cultivating relationships with mentors, as well as supervisors and managers, requires time and follow-through. However informal, it is a two-sided commitment. As Hall explains, “I’m happy to give you some tips that can get you started, and I expect when you call me you will have done those things, or I can’t take you seriously.”
Honor their time and your commitment. People who are successful are busy and have limited time. If you tell your mentor you’re going to send her information or if she asks you to read an article, do it. “When you do what you say you’re going to do, you build credibility,” Watson says. “That distinguishes you from the pack and indicates that you take the work that you’re doing with them seriously.”
Request informal evaluations. Talking informally about your performance with your supervisor can help you avoid unpleasant surprises at evaluation time and could even help you influence the outcome of your review. “You don’t want to get all the way through the year with something you could have fixed six months before,” says Watson.
Richardson, who is currently doing a six-month rotation in commercial finance in GE’s Sealants and Adhesives unit in Charlotte, North Carolina, often meets with her manager on upcoming projects and seeks informal evaluations. “I just want to make sure that I’m doing what’s expected of me,” she explains, “and if I have any concerns I have the opportunity to voice them.”
An open and regular flow of communications between management and employees reduces misunderstandings and misjudgments.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
When Melvin Alexander’s job as acting CEO and president of a Baltimore manufacturing firm ended, he and a partner began charging $100 an hour as consultants for business and operational analysis. “That seemed to be the quickest thing to get into without making [a large] capital outlay,” he says. Though, because of the economy, he found the market to be flooded with consultants, it helped keep Alexander’s family afloat as his severance package dwindled.
There was another benefit: It kept him productive, which makes him more valuable than the person who is just sitting at home lamenting a tight market. “People need to work,” insists Watson. “Being unemployed, being home is not the way to go. Go to a nonprofit, volunteer, wor
k for free.” Unfortunately, even in this environment, hiring managers believe that the best people don’t get laid off, offers Hall. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll look at