Individual Leadership

Giving back and guiding growth

Written by Faith Bartell

4 Min Read

Everyone knows and fears the feeling of being lost – whether you’re just starting your career, entering a new job, moving to an unfamiliar area, or undergoing any other significant change in your life. And everyone also knows the relief of having someone there to help guide the way.

When Alan Mardini, Senior Manager in Siegfried’s Detroit market, was a student at University of Michigan-Dearborn, he relied on the support of the community around him to spark and propel his professional growth. Now, Alan is actively giving back to this network, aiming to provide the same guidance that was so influential to him.

“The students that I mentor know where they want to be, but they have no idea how to get there. I’ve been through that,” reflected Alan. “I remember feeling lost. But my former professor and faculty advisor of Beta Alpha Psi helped put me in positions where she knew I would grow, even though they were uncomfortable at the time. And she’s still doing that with students – which I’m really happy to see and now be a part of.”

Connecting the dots

As part of the Wolverine Mentor Collective’s Professional Networking Program, Alan is routinely paired with three to four students in the College of Business. Typically, his mentees have a focus in accounting or finance, but he’s met with students from all across the business realm, including marketing and human resources. “A lot of the skills that I teach them are those intangible skills, like learning how to network and connect with people, which applies to all careers,” said Alan.

In every interaction with his mentees, Alan has two goals – help them clarify what they want and discern their path to get there, which is often through connecting with the right people in the right way. As a result, Alan’s mentee connections are more than 30-minute, one-time discussions and encompass a range of activities that support intentional and inspired growth. This includes performing mock interviews, signing up for networking events, creating elevator speeches, and even introducing them to other professionals in their desired industry.

“I’m helping them practice. Because the more you have these types of interactions, the more you get comfortable with them,” Alan elaborated. “This is something that we talk about a lot at Siegfried with MY Relationships™ – it’s harder than you think to make and keep connections. But once you get into a rhythm, it gets easier, and these are the habits that I’m getting them to develop.”

Sparking change

From personal experience, Alan has found that the key to success often boils down to consistently showing up and putting yourself out there. But this can be difficult to do, especially with students who have experienced the virtual and disconnected learning environment of the pandemic.

“You can be great on paper, but that’s not all it takes,” said Alan. “You have to put in the work to be proactive, get involved, and make yourself uncomfortable. Then, you can get to where you want to be and grow.”

For the first two years of Alan’s time at UM-Dearborn, he was stuck in the complacent routine of simply going to class and going home, refusing to make time for further involvement and not understanding its importance. It wasn’t until Alan’s first networking event, when he showed up with no preparation and no meaningful experience on his resume, that he recognized the need for change. When it comes to Alan’s mentees, he wants them to reach this turning point sooner rather than later.

“I hold them accountable,” Alan explained. “I want them to make their mistakes and grow. This is better than backing out, because if you just avoid failure, then you don’t know what to do differently going forward, and you won’t build that confidence. If you don’t show up and make your mistakes, then when are you going to learn?”

Through his involvement with Beta Alpha Psi, as well as his relationship with his professor, Alan found the support that he needed to grow. Now, he aims to provide this same transformative push. “Their [his mentees] lives change forever after that push, and it’s amazing to see. I’ve seen it a lot, and I want to continue seeing it because it makes me so happy to watch them grow. I get the same feeling that I had when I first kind of ‘got it.’ I love that feeling – it’s what keeps me going.”

Learning is lifelong

As Alan’s experience with mentoring expands and evolves, he looks to be more and more involved, contributing to current students’ growth whenever he can find the time and the means to do so. “I recently met with the new dean of the College of Business and got to see his vision, what he’s expecting for the students and the faculty, and how I can help contribute to that. So, I’m really excited to be a part of the change there,” said Alan.

With this increasing involvement and a lasting commitment to learning, Alan has seen the value that these genuine and of-service connections can add to his own life and relationships as well. And he’s found that what he learns from his mentees can translate into a variety of different areas and interactions – with his other mentees, with his clients at Siegfried, and with his personal relationships.

“I’ve learned that everyone is different. As much as I feel that my way is the right way, there are people who might think differently from me and have different backgrounds or experiences. My mentees challenge me to consider that there’s more than just one way of doing things,” reflected Alan. “So, I’m continuing to learn and grow just as they are.”

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