The monthly compliance networking event Compliance Career Connection has reached hundreds of professionals across six continents and continues to help early and mid-career workers. Here’s how it all got started.
Last summer, like countless professionals around the world, Nikolaos Doukellis experienced work disruptions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. He started looking for a new job.
“It was essentially impossible to find anything,” he said.
Doukellis’ search would lead him to LinkedIn, to a MentorCore webinar and to Affiliated Monitors’ VP of Business Development, Jay Rosen. It would also spark the creation of Compliance Career Connection, a virtual compliance networking event launched by Rosen and MentorCore founders Lisa Beth Lentini Walker and Daniel Ayala. Since going live last summer, the compliance networking event has brought together hundreds of professionals. Representatives from six different continents have attended, and a separate French-language event has already spun off. The organizers don’t know just how many have found new jobs through the event. But it has helped Doukellis and many others.
The next Compliance Career Connection event is Monday, June 21. Register here.
Compliance Networking Amid a Pandemic
“I hated networking,” Doukellis said. “I didn’t want to do it. For me, what really changed was my perception and my approach. At first I thought people networked just to find a job. But you never know when you’re going to need someone with a skill set that you don’t have. And as the pandemic has shown, nobody is ever really secure. Beyond a job, it can create a web of support. Cultivating relationships is just a good idea.”
Doukellis learned this the hard way. He has a master’s degree from Georgetown. He has held compliance positions at the World Bank and PwC. But experience doesn’t count for much if there are few positions to fill. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, a Willis Towers Watson survey found over 40 percent of American companies slowed or halted hiring.
With scant openings available, Doukellis started to see what he could find on LinkedIn. In August, he caught a MentorCore webinar that featured Jay Rosen discussing the winding career path — involving tenures in Hollywood and legal translation industries — that brought him ultimately to compliance. Throughout, Rosen highlighted how the connections he made with the people he worked with always helped him make the next step.
“I was amazed by all the all the zigzagging that he did,” Doukellis said. “So I decided to reach out to him on LinkedIn.”
Rosen immediately accepted and scheduled a call within the week.
“My dad ran shoe stores in New England,” Rosen said. “When salespeople lost their job, they would often wind up in his office. He was plugged in to the community and was very good at helping them find employment. I would watch him do this and one day said, ‘Dad, what’s the angle?’ He said, ‘There’s no angle. It’s just part of being a good human being. You help people out.’ So when Nikolaos contacted me, I went through my Rolodex and got him five or six meetings, and after, his employment situation changed.”
The success of those interactions got Rosen thinking. “This all came about because someone listened to a webinar,” Rosen said. “So I got back to Lisa Beth and Dan a few days later. I said, ‘I think we might have an opportunity here.’”
Daniel Ayala and Lisa Beth Lentini Walker had launched MentorCore in March of 2020, right as COVID-19 was reaching the U.S. Their platform is devoted to connecting mentors with proteges in the compliance space, and they were already holding weekly virtual events. Virtual compliance networking events, though somewhat separate from mentoring, were well aligned with the work they were already doing.
“We had to do something,” Lentini Walker said. “There was so much disruption going on and so many talented, amazing people were losing their jobs in this space. Or they were trying to get into compliance and finding roadblocks. We wanted to make things more accessible.”
Compliance Career Connection Gets Off the Ground
Since last September, Compliance Career Connection events have occurred twice a month. Two general groups of people attend: those looking to expand their networks and those with experience looking to donate their time and help in any way they can. The meetings take a range of formats. Some involve compliance “speed dating.” Others are resume workshops, mock job interviews or opportunities for attendees to work on their “elevator pitch” and receive constructive criticism.
“It’s really about getting people to think differently about themselves and how they are perceived,” said Candice Tal, CEO and founder of Infortal Worldwide. Tal has participated as an expert volunteer in numerous Compliance Career Connection events. “You have to look at things strategically,” Tal continued. “Your resume is a strategic version of you on paper. Sometimes people have a lot of content, but they don’t make it easy for recruiters to sort it out and figure out who they are as a person. And that’s important.”
Networking and connecting via LinkedIn and Zoom might seem like a hard sell to some, but Rosen didn’t notice any reluctance from participants.
“A few months into the pandemic, people were very hungry for that connection,” he said. “Even if it was only on a video call or on an audio call, people took to that. It really was not an impediment.”
As Lentini Walker sees it, COVID-19, in a way, made these connections more accessible.
“Dan is Latino, and I’m a woman in the world of business,” she said. “As a mother of four children, there’s nobody I see who looks like me. I didn’t get a ton of good mentoring from people who were in positions of power to help me along the way in my own career. Dan and I wanted to expand access and inclusion.”
“Well, where are those opportunities?” she continued. “From what I see, there’s a set group of people that always go to the big conferences. In order to get to those big conferences, you have to have your own personal wealth or you have to have a company that’s going to support you. So it becomes a financial barrier. In some respects, the pandemic has reduced that barrier, because you can put on a virtual event for almost nothing.”
A Diversity of Backgrounds and Perspectives
Juliana Molina has been attending a range of networking events over the past few months. She has received some advice she wasn’t expecting.
Molina is from Brazil but has over 10 years of experience working in compliance positions around the world. She had a child right before the pandemic broke out, and she is now looking to return to work. Like Doukellis, she has strong credentials. But she also has a gap on her resume over a year long, and she wasn’t sure how to navigate that situation with potential employers.
“I’ve asked everyone I met the same question,” Molina said. “‘I had a baby, the there was COVID-19, there is a gap on my resume, what should I say?’ You would be surprised how many different answers I got.”
Molina says that some didn’t care. Others encouraged her to tell her story, because employers could relate to it. Some said she should prepare two different answers — one for women and one for men. But others encouraged her to massage the narrative or even lie outright.
“I was so surprised,” Molina said. “We’re supposed to support diversity and inclusion. Since attending those events, I have now had a few interviews, and I have realized that I just need to give a straightforward answer. If having a baby is a problem for a company, that company is not for me.”
Still, Molina has enjoyed an overly positive experience at Compliance Career Connection.
“The highlight of it all has been the professionals who volunteered to give back to the community. I was able to meet with people and speak with them about where I am in my career, what jobs I’m looking for and why I have been out of the market,” she said. “I’ve met others who have gone through similar experiences. I felt very supported by the group. I’ve gotten great overviews from different people in different roles across different industries. It was very valuable. And I got job interviews through the connections I made.”
Since initially benefiting from Compliance Career Connection, Nikolaos Doukellis has begun to experience other rewards from the virtual compliance networking event.
“People who go through this may initially think that it’s transactional, that it has a very specific goal,” Doukellis said. “But you gradually start seeing people you help grow and land positions. Then they, themselves, try to help other people. That’s a very big reward. I really I love seeing people that I’ve helped somehow grow and realize that somebody else did it for me. I’m doing it for them. It lets me pass the flame.”