How Mentoring Worked For Me: An IAW Member Shares Her Career Journey

Welcome to a fresh, new year! It’s a great time to explore new avenues that can help you on your way to career success. It’s been proven that mentoring is a critical component of professional development. This year, consider seeking a mentor or reach out and become a mentor to someone else. A mentoring relationship is an exchange of experiences, knowledge, and power . . . and power shared is power amplified.

Having a mentor can redefine the way you view yourself and your professional perspective—just ask Emily Carroll, President, and Co-Founder of Janus Analytics, LLC. If you recognize Emily, that’s because she was a guest panelist in our eChapter meeting on December 9  – Preparing for the New Year, Professional Resolutions. Emily’s professional journey sparked our interest, so we reached out to her and now we’re honored to share her story.

Emily began her college career as a pre-med major with every intention of going to medical school. After two years of chemistry and biology, she knew that it wasn’t the right fit. In her sophomore year, she took a Women’s Studies elective and became hooked. For the next two years, Emily immersed herself in political theory and the history of feminist thought and action and spent as much time as she could with an inspiring group of young, politically-active women. “They pushed me to really think through the issues rather than just what’s on the surface,” Emily says. “In a very real way, they were the catalyst to my career in public policy and research.”

During her time at the University of Akron, Emily worked with nonprofit organizations and met her first professional mentor, Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. She interned with Kellie as a requirement for her master’s degree and was encouraged by Kellie to be “hands-on” in every facet of the day-to-day operations of the organization, which included active participation in meetings with stakeholders and discussions about strategic planning. “She [Kellie] was and continues to be instrumental in helping me think through my “next move” while keeping in mind the needs of others and creating positive change for individuals and the community,” says Emily.

Although Emily’s experiences pushed her more toward mainstream electoral politics, her heart was still on social justice issues. After much soul-searching about the future and several trips to her academic advisor, she decided to pursue her doctorate at Southern Illinois University (SIU). “It was never my ambition to earn a doctorate—but a bad job market and the offer of funding made it very appealing,” she explained. As Emily began the program, it became obvious that her interests did not align with those of her peers. Between being unsure about pursuing the degree and feeling like a bit of an academic outsider, Emily thought about leaving—but then during her second year, she found the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute (PSPPI) and mentor, Dr. Charlie Leonard.

Emily was awarded the inaugural Paul Simon Graduate Research Fellowship which allowed her to work with Charlie and other members of the Institute’s faculty. She met with Charlie several times a week during those two years and the relationship continued into her fifth and final year at SIU. “Charlie was an instrumental part of my project and the process of completion. Since then, we have stayed in contact and he is my first call when I have a professional question or conundrum.”

As graduation drew near, Emily began applying for jobs. One of the offers she received was from a think tank working exclusively on early childhood issues. Although she didn’t have a lot of background in early childhood, it was a good fit for her as so many social justice issues overlap. So, she moved to South Carolina and worked there for about a year to hone her skills, broaden her network and continue learning as much as she could. As her contract was ending, she knew there wasn’t any upward mobility in that position so she began thinking about the possibilities and ultimately, what she wanted her future to look like.

On September 1st, 2015, Janus Analytics was formally launched. After six years of living away from home, Emily moved back to Sandusky, Ohio to focus on running her new business. Janus Analytics specializes in providing world-class research, data management, program evaluation, needs assessment, and policy analysis with a focus on customer service.

“I’m frequently asked where the name Janus Analytics came from and I always make sure to give my business partner, Dr. Ryan Burge the credit for coming up with it,” says Emily. In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of new beginnings and transitions. Ryan and I were both at a professional crossroads when we decided to open this business and this name/concept seemed perfect. Additionally, Janus is usually depicted looking both forward and backward, something that’s increasingly important for research and developing solid evidentiary support – study the past, evaluate the present, and inform the future.”

Mentor Q&A with Emily

Q: Do you think all professional women should have a mentor? 

A: Absolutely! I think it is really important for professional women to have a mentor and it becomes increasingly important when working in a male-dominated field. In my experience, the best mentors are those with advanced expertise in your chosen field. They are able to talk to you about the work and about how to strategically navigate through it. Keep in mind that a mentoring relationship is not something that can be built overnight; nor is it a relationship that can be forced through asking someone you don’t know particularly well.

Q: Share the importance of having male and female mentors in your professional career.

A:  I work in politics and research which are both male-dominated fields. So having a mentor who is male just comes with the territory. Men and women have different perspectives and different experiences—these are invaluable! I like someone who has been there and done that. So I would encourage everyone to try to have both, if possible. If not, just find people who are successful, understand the industry, and ultimately care about you and your future.

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of a mentor/mentee relationship? How can both people help each other?

A: It’s all about perspective. Everyone has one and each is valid. The real value is in recognizing this, trusting your mentor and their experience, and moving forward with this new information and knowledge.

I have someone that I regularly talk to—Allison Fischer of Thrivent Financial. She is a different kind of mentor because she is neither in my field nor more experienced than I am. However, we are the same age, grew up together, and are in very similar places professionally. Like me, Allison recently started her own business. Although not the traditional mentor/mentee relationship, we have a monthly call where we talk to each other about how things are going, what’s working and what isn’t, and we offer feedback to one another. In essence, we are mentoring each other and it’s proving to be really helpful for both parties. Each of us leaves the call renewed, refreshed, and ready to continue kicking butt! We find that it’s another way to hold ourselves accountable.

We want to hear from you! Interested in becoming a mentor or looking for one? Our mentor/mentee program is waiting to support you at any stage of your career. Join IAW’s community of professional women all over the globe today! 

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