Mentoring: Do unto others as others have already done for you

A bright young marketing star sent me a note last week about my blog.  It was very complimentary about “teachable” moments in the guise of storytelling and caused me to reflect on why Isabelle and I were in conversation in the first place. 

I’ve always thought it was my duty to mentor new marketing people because so many people have helped me in my career.  Much has been said about official mentoring programs, rules of engagement, milestones, etc.  But mentoring doesn’t have to be structured.  Although I’ve never been a part of a work-assigned mentoring program, I’ve always tried to unofficially help young talent develop, network and feel safe about asking questions about their career and their chosen field in business.  My husband thinks I spend a lot of time helping others with their career and never get “paid back” for the effort.  But he’s wrong.  The payback comes in knowing that I’ve made a difference, that I’m appreciated and that I can impart what I’ve learned to help someone else shortcut some of the pain climbing the learning curve.  Isn’t that a legacy to wear with pride?

Here are some tips on how I view mentoring that might help you make a contribution as well:

1) Teachable moments   As Isabelle pointed out, mixing storytelling with teaching is a much more fun and less painful way to impart knowledge.  How can anyone resist the message when the storyteller pokes fun at her/his own moments of discovery and learning.  Being willing to share those sometimes embarrassing, but always elucidating, examples can show someone just starting out that we all pay our dues.

2) Not Just for Work Anymore   There’s a need for mentoring programs in the workplace, but sometimes it’s better and easier if we try and help someone as part of a friendship or acquaintanceship. Take someone out for coffee or lunch and find out how you can help the person.  The “Old Boy Network” was expert at this in the past.  The “Old Girl Network” is starting to catch up, but we all need to find ways to help each other as friends and colleagues.

3) Rules, Shmules   Forget the rules of engagement, filling out forms or writing reports on what was accomplished.  By unofficially mentoring someone, all subjects are open to discussion.  Write your own script on how to succeed in business and share it with your mentee/friend.

4) Win-Win   While much of the reason for mentoring is imparting knowledge to younger people, my experience is that younger marketers also teach me a great deal.  Rather than stay a dinosaur in this age of new media, some of the younger people that I’m mentoring and collaborating with have spurred me on to get engaged with social media.  We both win and I get re-energized from their enthusiasm.

5) Golden Rule–with a Twist  Think back on all the times that someone gave you good advice, helped you get an internship, gave you the phone number of someone many levels higher than yours in a company and the person returned the call as a favor to their friend.  Each of us has been helped by others in our career, and it’s only right that we return the favor to the next generation coming behind us. 

I’m on a roll.  Two of the young, talented marketing people that I’ve unofficially mentored have recently been helped landing a job and getting a key interview for a job because of a great reference and because I called in a favor.  Now it’s up to them to justify those opportunities–as I have absolutely no doubt that they will.

Mentor–as if someone’s career depended on it.



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