Career Mentoring from 4th of July Raspberry Picking

Yesterday, I picked raspberries at my father-in-law Bob’s house. The raspberries are early this year. In other years, the raspberries were at their peak during the week of the fair in early August. But spring came early and so did the raspberries.

No ordinary raspberry patch

Bob has no ordinary raspberry patch with just a few bushes. It feels like a jungle in there. I picked for over an hour, emptying my container several times and again after supper and there is plenty of berries still out there.

As I picked, I was remembering how long I have been picking raspberries in that patch. The first time was right after I met my husband, Bill, I had just turned 23.

In the early years, I remember Bob, giving me pointers on how best to pick them and help manage his patch.

“Look for the ripe ones, but don’t leave the older ones on the bushes, throw those on the ground, it starts new plants and makes the patch more productive.”

“You think you’ve got them all but they ripen when you’re not looking. Just be thorough”

“Look low, don’t miss the fruit hiding under the branches.”

My personal harvest since I first started picking raspberries?

I took my father-in-law’s advice for more than picking berries. When I met him, he was division manager for Wisconsin Public Service.

As a well-connected business person with a passion for community service, he also loved fundraising for Kiwanis and Wausau Whitewater and food projects, such as the Kiwanis pancake feed, Kiwanis fair booth, and Kiwanis Little Olympics.

He was the driving force during Wausau Whitewater’s beginnings. Once  the course was underway, he and another prominent businessman generated the sponsorship development for Wausau Whitewater for years, working with businesses and corporations to help them understand why they should fund such an amazing community resource.

He invested that same passion into many community development products. Once the headline in the paper was “Father of the Incubator.” Bob convinced other business leaders to work with him to launch an incubator to build small businesses, giving them a place to start, shared resources, and guidance. His project outgrew the location and was moved to the industrial park years later.

His business advice, community service, and passion rubbed off on me.

When his Kiwanis club needed an administrative coordinator, he sent me off to interview. The first contract with Kiwanis helped provide a steady base for my fledgling business, Design Resumes. It also built an understanding for me and connections to many people and aspects of the Wausau area.

Six years later, he told the board of Wausau Whitewater that they should interview one more person (me) to replace the exiting marketing firm who had managed Wausau Whitewater operations and the 12 year contract began.

I turned to Bob for advice many times during the years since as I grew my business and I still give him updates on what is happening. He’s 88 now, my youngest son is 23. I feel I am just now incubating the business I started so long ago as I forge new roads using technology, marketing, and communication tools that didn’t exist when I first started picking raspberries.

Everyone needs at least one mentor

Whether you are in a job search, career change, or starting your own business, you need someone to help you find the best fruit, the best way to pick it, how to keep generating more, and reminders to look where you don’t think there is fruit.

Sure, you will drop some fruit and you might get scratched along the way but if you listen to your mentor and keep trying to do better, you will find a reward in the end.


  1. Jane C Woods on July 4, 2010 at 11:41 am

    What a lovely tribute with a really good point to make too!I hope he enjoys it too!

    • Julie Walraven on July 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks, Jane!

      I think I will print it for him. I’m still teaching him how to use the computer on a very slow connection.

  2. Career Strategist on July 5, 2010 at 8:14 am

    You always have such vibrant, inspiring photos and illustrations in your posts! I love that your father-in-law has been a mentor to you. What a tribute to ‘both’ of you that you blend both a familial relationship and business.

    As well, a lovely analogy tying raspberry picking to business, community and passion!

    • Julie Walraven on July 5, 2010 at 2:37 pm

      Thank you, Jacqui! I’m practicing on my analogy building, with you and Rob as examples, I have to keep being creative! …Waiting for his novel 🙂 Actually, like you, I love storytelling. To me, I learn better if someone shares a story than if it is a “just the facts” approach>

  3. Davina on July 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    What a nice post, Julie.

    I love how you drew the parallel to the berry picking with the closing line, “…you need someone to help you find the best fruit, the best way to pick it, how to keep generating more…” A tad brilliant, I must say 🙂

    I did not know there was a “right” way to pick raspberries. I learned something new today. Thanks.

    • Julie Walraven on July 5, 2010 at 9:08 pm

      Thank you for that amazingly wonderful comment, Davina! As for the right way to pick raspberries, my father-in-law has a “right” way to do most things… 🙂

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