Mentorship: How to Make the Most of Your Relationships
Jan 31, 2017
My dad. My middle and high school music teachers. My cousin. My co-worker in my first internship. My managers in nearly every job I’ve had professionally. And Oprah. Like, the Oprah Winfrey.
Those are just some of the mentors I value, respect and admire. Sure, some I don’t actually know personally – okay, just one – but all share common traits, strengths and lessons that have made a great impact on me as a person and as a professional. They are open and honest, give me the opportunity to learn on my own while also supporting me when I stumble, and make themselves available whenever possible (Oprah, I could get more of that from you, TBH).
As you’ve seen on our blog, Instagram and Snapchat this month, mentorship is also incredibly valued here at Centerline. To get an outside perspective, I talked with some of my favorite business, marketing and communications experts; check out their insights and advice on all things mentorship – from finding and approaching a mentor, to being a mentor and creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
Meet the Experts!
Cindy Whitehead is CEO of The Pink Ceiling and a highly regarded advocate for women’s health. I had the incredible opportunity to see Cindy speak at an Innovate Raleigh event last year and have been a bonafide fangirl ever since. Find and follow her on Twitter @CindyPinkCEO.
Joey Brown is Vice President of Sales at Emma. We got to meet and know Joey and Emma following Marketing United last year. If you’re looking for an awesome marketing conference to attend this year, definitely check out Marketing United. The Emma team does an incredible job of making it fun and incredibly informative. Plus, who doesn’t want to go to Nashville in April? You can find and follow Joey on LinkedIn and Twitter at @JoeyBrown105.
Michelle Chin is a Lead Product Designer at Citrix and a bigtime UX thought leader. Michelle will be presenting on mentorship in UX with our very own Joe Bond at the IMPACT – UXDC Conference in Washington, D.C. on April 15th. If you’ll be at the conference make sure you check out their session and say hi! You can find Michelle through her website and on Twitter @soysaucechin.
The need for mentorship
“The genesis of the Pinkubator that I’m launching in February is the need I see for mentorship. After having the privilege to spend a lot of this past year on the speaking circuit to other women entrepreneurs or rising business stars, it struck me that more than anything else mentorship is a gap that still glaringly remains. A lot has changed actually since I first started building businesses, (pre-Shark Tank era!) but it all seems to have taken the form of one size fits all coursework. I call it ‘entrepreneurship in a box’ which makes me laugh because the very heart of an entrepreneur is the antithesis of anything that fits in any box. Frankly, I just don’t think an off the shelf course is the magic that’s going to take someone to the next level. I think real world, real time advice from others who’ve been there done that and understand where you want to go is what can turn little steps in leaps and bounds.” – Cindy
On finding a mentor
“When you’re starting your career, reaching out to a mentor can seem like an intimidating and a super formal process. The easiest way to find a mentor is by attending a local meetup. People are often friendly and it’s a good way to break the ice. In terms of formality, it’s great to set expectations, but they don’t need to be uptight and strict – it’s not an apprenticeship. Mentorship could just be meeting for coffee or just talking shop every once in awhile.” – Michelle
“Finding a mentor is one of the most important things that we can do. Be it in our professional or personal lives, I find it important to find someone in your immediate circle, outside of the walls of your home or office. It’s important to find someone who can provide a level of accountability with an unbiased point of view. A good mentor should be someone who can challenge your way of thinking, but also keep your best interests in mind.” – Joey
“In terms of what I value in a mentor, real world experience and a willingness to shoot it straight. Mentors elevate you by helping make your path easier to navigate for sure (applying the lessons and connections from theirs), but equally they should elevate you by looking at your ideas through their creative lens and challenging them.” – Cindy
“I keep my values consistent in mentoring the same way I run my business. I always recommend showing up with a point of view of the other person (mentor/customer/etc) and have found these three traits and values applicable in most settings:
- Commitment – staying committed to the work at hand
- Willingness – checking ego at the door, being willing to be challenged and adaptable to change
- Team Play/Unselfishness – there’s no need to be ‘in it’ for your own personal gain, we’re doing it for the person next to us, and constantly looking to adapt and improve.”
Getting the most out of mentorship
“To quote one of the most recognizable brands in the history of the world, ‘Just Do It.’ As with anything in life, there’s always a million reasons not to do something, but much in the same way, meeting with a mentor on a regular basis (I personally recommend once a month) is a great way to foster constant improvement and learning in your specific relationships.” – Joey
“To make the most out of having a mentor, it’s important to be introspective – understand your likes/dislikes, your strengths/weaknesses and interests. If you’re trying to figure out which role or career is right for you, communicating these things can help your mentor better guide you toward the right path. Mentors are there to provide guidance and inspire, rather than find your career for you.” – Michelle
“It’s really simple: come prepared. At any given time there are certain challenges that separate where you’re at from where you want to be. Break that down into simple questions for advice. I think you’ll be surprised how much more you’ll take away with ‘smaller’ focused questions as opposed to bigger picture open ended ones.” – Cindy
On being a mentor
“Being a mentor is easier than most people think! You can commit as much time as you’d like to it – however it fits into your schedule best. That might mean meeting for coffee or lunch once a month or every few months, but then chatting over Slack or email. Sometimes people just need a one-time meeting to set them on the right path or they might need feedback on their resume or portfolio. Being a mentor is fun and a great way to give back to the community!” – Michelle
“Being a mentor is one of the most exciting responsibilities I’ve taken. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to mentor several hundred young professionals across many different lines of work, and seeing them realize their career goals and aspirations is extremely fulfilling. I’ve often been told the true measure of a leader/mentor is how successful that person can be in their next role. Being able to serve as a mentor also offers a fringe benefit in the sense that I often find myself being held accountable and learning from the mentee as well. For more on Reverse Mentoring, check out this Forbes article for an interesting take from former CEO of GE Jack Welch.” – Joey
Thank you to Cindy, Joey and Michelle for sharing your insights and advice with us! Give them a follow and let us know what you’d add or if you have any questions, we’d love to continue the conversation.
As the great Oprah Winfrey herself once said, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” I’ve been lucky enough to experience this with the help of my mentors, and can only hope that I’m able to provide someone else with it one day as well.
#MentorshipMonth has been a great way for us to kick-off 2017 with drive, hope and excitement. I encourage you to continue the momentum throughout the year and find ways to get involved! As Michelle noted, being a mentor is probably easier than you think. Everyone has a gift, why not share it with others and make the most of your relationships.
A lifelong northerner, I began my career in agency public relations in Rochester, New York, later moving to New York City, working with a variety of technology and consumer brands from Xerox and IBM to Blackberry and KAYAK. I loved the fast-paced and entrepreneurial environment and learned so much about myself, client and people management, media relations and how to properly mail merge. Now a relocated northerner and wannabe southerner, I still love the pace, people and spirit of agency life in Raleigh. As Centerline’s Communications Manager, I get to help amplify the amazing content that we produce as an agency and thought leaders through events, media placement, relationships with influencers and social media.