When Hayley Henning of True North Gems asked me to serve as a chatty Cathy of sorts in the conversation pits at the WJA–GIA mentoring event in Manhattan last night, I wasn’t sure what I could bring to the table, but I agreed to participate because she’s a dear friend. The cosponsored affair drew 45 attendees—the most ever in the history of the groups’ joint efforts—and was the first-ever sold-out cosponsored mentoring event, according to Danielle Ingwer Cohen, of Leo Ingwer and WJA’s Metro chapter president (with whom I serve on the board).
“You will be seated in a conversation pit, and students and members will come and go, before and after their sessions,” Henning told me about my job last night. Sit on a sofa and talk? Yes, I could handle that task. So I wasn’t an official mentor—as there were plenty of impressive names, such as Diane Warga-Arias, on hand—but my conversations sort of morphed into mini mentoring sessions in their own right. Overall, the energy in the room last night was palpable, with both students and professionals eager to learn either how to enter industry as a newbie, switch careers, or take existing jewelry positions to another level. Here are a few of my takeaways from the night.
Courtesy Hayley Henning
Industry talents are diverse. Mentors on hand ranged from business experts like Helzberg’s Jacqueline Cassaway and merchandising and line development expert April Scorcia to TV dynamo Diane Warga-Arias and celebrity stylist Michael O’Connor. There was definitely a lot of advice on hand.
Jewelry people are welcoming. One young woman looking to change careers remarked on the warm and supportive nature of jewelers—particularly in comparison to the fashion world. Of course, jewelry is a part of this universe, but jewelers remain arguably more welcoming than counterparts in clothing.
Each of us has something to offer. Despite my initial thoughts that I had nothing to contribute, GIA instructor Maria Tsangaropoulos, organizer for the event with the help of Henning, steered several folks my way who wanted input on becoming jewelry designers. I talked to them about the importance of developing a strong signature style, what the media needs from them, and even about entering design contests. I surprised myself on the information on demand inside this writer’s mind!
Courtesy Hayley Henning
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