As my time in the Fellowship comes to an end, I can say one thing for sure: I have gained knowledge, friends and mentors I will have for the rest of my life.
Knowledge comes in many forms, and from many directions.
The knowledge I have gained from this experience comes in many forms. Of course, there are a number of lessons that I have learned in my work throughout the Fellowship, but I would like to focus on the additional value that the Fellowship provides outside of a day-to-day job.
For example, we were able to attend the Made by Few design conference where I found a passion for web development and design. That inspired me to take on side work building websites and managing Google Adwords campaigns–something I never saw myself doing when I was graduating college.
As part of the Events Committee I was handed the reigns to organize events, both large and small, and now feel excited rather than terrified when tasked with planning and executing any events. I’ve heard about what it takes to start and scale a business from founders of social influencer agencies, restaurateurs, venture capitalists, retailers and more, which has helped me build a toolkit that I can hopefully use to build my own successful startup one day. Basically, some of the most impactful learning experiences I’ve had over the past couple of years have come from Fellowship events.
The Fellowship encouraged me to constantly strive to learn new things by looking up and around. By this, I mean that instead of settling in my comfort zone or a certain area of expertise, the Fellowship got me to step out and experience situations I was unfamiliar with and put me in front of people with depths of knowledge in areas I didn’t understand, which I most likely wouldn’t have chased on my own without the program’s help.
Smarter peers make for a smarter you.
The main reason I value the Fellowship is that at the heart of it all, this organization is about valuing and learning from other people. I believe that if you surround yourself with good people (and people smarter than you) you will end up doing good things. At a time when I needed a great peer group most, graduating college and trying to figure out what direction I wanted to take my career, the Fellowship provided. By surrounding myself with bright people in similar situations to mine, either people going into their first jobs or people who had been in their jobs for a year already, I was able to ask for advice and received encouragement anytime I needed it.
Also, since everyone works in different industries and roles we were able to offer each other unique viewpoints and knowledge. From monthly dinners to strategic planning retreats, one thing is also unique to the Fellowship. No matter how busy, stressed or otherwise we might have been, as a young, energetic group we always made sure to have fun and take the time to laugh when it was needed most, which goes a long way.
Arkansas Fellowship mentors care for you and connect you.
This just in: It turns out that history has a way of repeating itself. The more you can learn from those who have been through situations similar to those you would like to put yourself in, the more likely you are to succeed. However, finding the right mentor can be difficult and takes a long time for most people. In the Fellowship, you gain access to some of the best mentorship that the state has to offer.
Our board members always made themselves available and each member offers a wealth of wisdom from a unique focus area. If I was ever looking for help or advice from someone with experience, all I needed to do was ask. I used to think that busy people like themselves wouldn’t want to offer their time to a young person or that I didn’t have a good enough reason for them to meet with me, but it turns out that most successful entrepreneurs or business leaders love to give back and help young people succeed.
Anytime I reached out to a board member with a question or asked someone for advice, I received the assistance I was looking for, whether it was from them or someone they knew. Not only were they willing to answer any questions I had, but they weren’t afraid to go to bat for me if I needed help, such as introducing me to new opportunities when I was going through a job transition. Without the advice and support of my mentors in the Fellowship, I can say that I wouldn’t be where I am today.
All in all, this has been a life changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and to be associated with some of the kindest, hardest working people in Arkansas that put in the work to make this program possible.
Whether a Fellow, Board Member or Host Company, everyone I have met through the Arkansas Fellowship has been nothing but genuine and kind to me. I’d like to thank you all for the positive impact you have had on my life.
If you are reading this and thinking about signing up, do yourself a favor and submit an application this fall. You may sacrifice an hour of your time today, but you stand to gain knowledge, friends and mentors you will have for the rest of your life.