Transitioning IWLC conference take-aways into real life

Jan 14, 2016

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Like many of us that seek to better ourselves, network and learn from others, I enjoy attending conferences and other community events to hear from outstanding leaders and innovators.

As I attend these events, the largest question I ask myself is, “Am I actually taking this information and working it into my real life? Am I using the resources that I have at my disposal and the amazing amount of experiences that have been shared with me to optimize my career, growth and development?” 

I have been incredibly impressed by the IWLC conferences, as well as other events. But often there is so much going on that it’s hard to soak it all in and apply it in your day-to-day after the conference. How can we organize what is most applicable to our current professional or personal situation?

My answer to this question:  take one key point and jot down next steps. This seems to be the best recipe for me.

When I attended the IWLC Eastern Iowa Conference in the spring of 2015, I was so excited to be a part of something that felt like one of the most powerful movements for women in the state. There was a lot of energy and emotion throughout every conversation. I didn’t get to see everything or speak to everyone – but I did have a key takeaway that I still find helpful.

Carla Harris, the author of “Expect to Win,” discussed the differences between a mentor, advisor and sponsor. This really resonated with me, as I had been feeling uncomfortable about sharing too much information and confused about establishing roles in relationships with experienced leaders to whom I looked up.

Here’s what I jotted down during Carla’s engaging talk:


  • It’s ok to share some of your fears and failures with your mentors.
  • It’s ok to show them vulnerability and frustration. They have been through the types of obstacles that you are now facing.
  • In order to grow and thrive in your mentor-mentee relationship, you must come forth with some of your concerns.
  • Mentors can be the hardest to find and the person with whom you will be able to discuss a career change.

Before this instruction from Carla I felt as though I really needed to hide certain aspects of my life so that my mentor would think I was strong and professional and had my life was where it needed to be. But in reality, your mentor should know that you are reaching out to them for direction.


  • Your advisor should be someone that is within your company or was in a similar position that you can ask about specific steps in this position.
  • You don’t necessarily talk with your advisor about future goals that could possibly be within another company or field.


  • A sponsor is a completely different ball game compared to a mentor or advisor. This is someone to whom you do not highlight your flaws and failures.
  • This is the person to whom you are demonstrating complete control.
  • A sponsor will be the person who vouches for you when it is time for promotion or assignment of new projects.
  • With this person it’s in your best interest not to touch on any subjects that may paint you as a person to whom it would be dangerous to invest time, energy and money.

After this lesson in mentors, advisors and sponsors, I have spent a lot of time establishing boundaries and stronger relationships when it comes to the individuals I look up to for support and advice. Honestly applying these strategies to my life has changed it for the best. I feel that whatever type of problem, circumstance or opportunity, I know to whom I should turn. It’s a confidence boost in your career and life to have that guidance.

I’m thankful for the experience of IWLC conferences and other networking events, and have been grateful to use this knowledge from Carla Harris.