You know what our industry needs? We need more mentors.
The business is growing rapidly, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. Forrester is now predicting that the Web advertising business is going to surpass TV advertising in 2016. That means more attention, more focus, and more to do for all of us involved. It also means more challenges, more opportunities for solving problems -- a task that's easier for the experienced. So that's what a mentor can bring to the table.
Mentors are a vital part of any industry because they provide leadership and guidance for younger professionals. In sports, you create a dynasty by continuing a successful execution of a plan through multiple generations of players. It's the same in business. Mentors provide that bridge from the successes and the knowledge gained from the failures of the past.
Most successful businesspeople will tell you they have a mentor -- in some cases, even a network of mentors. As the songs say, "Everybody's gotta serve somebody" and everybody has "Someone to lean on." To quote another cliché, "No man is an island" -- the advice and guidance of others is extremely important in helping to shape the character of the man (or woman) that you can become.
I feel that our business has neglected mentorship for too long; not enough people take the time to pursue or follow up on opportunities to become mentors.
It's not nearly as complicated as you might think to find a mentor. To be one is even simpler. To find a mentor, you just need to identify people whose experiences and character resonate with you. These people may work in your business, or not. Mentors can provide guidance in all areas of your life -- anything from process and industry experience to stress management, time management, interpersonal skills and even in finding work/life balance. Any area of your life that provides an opportunity for growth can benefit from mentorship.
On the other end, as a mentor, you're provided with two primary areas of benefit. First off, there's a sense of satisfaction in being able to help someone else in his or her career. Also, you can personally benefit from the introspection that's part of the process.. As another popular saying goes, "The best way to learn is to teach." Sometimes, sitting down and discussing challenges and solutions with someone else can provide you with an epiphany about how to handle yourself in a new way, further maturing your own character.
The industry could, and should, provide opportunities for mentorship and connecting younger professionals with more seasoned ones, but the process also relies on you. You can take the initiative to find people whom you look up to, or whose experiences you value, and ask them if they would grab lunch. Mentorship does not have to be a formal relationship; it can simply be a lunch, dinner, or even coffee with someone. It doesn't cost a lot, but the benefits can be felt for years to come.
And while I'm at it, I want to formally thank each of you who have been a mentor to me over the years. Some of you know who you are, while many of you aren't even aware of the respect I have for you. I look up to some, emulate others, and aggressively learn from many.
So thank you for your time, attention and your continued character in life.
This is a great article about why we should have mentors, but that's a given.
What we really need, and what would have been great to see more of in this article, are resources for where/how to find mentors.
Like clichés, mentorship is an older tradition that has fallen by the wayside as busy folks equated it with volunteerism...and that doesn't have an ROI. This simple act of courtesy, detailing your experience or inviting one to share their own, can provide structure for a rookie to begin on a better path or add balancing strategies to one feeling overwhelmed. We can find business mentors in the next cubicle or by attending conferences, Webinars or reading posts. Just ask-mentors are usually pleased to share their time and talent.
Just to add a by-the-way to your great column... If you are in the NYC area and in the industry, 212NYC.org launched a great mentoring club this past year. 212's "ConnectU" pairs mentors and those looking for one -- whether on an agency, publishing, tech or entrepreneurial path. To Kara's point, we are trying to make it easier to start these relationships within the industry. For those interested, let me know -- and I can connect you to the guy who runs the program...
PS: Here is a link to the Facebook page for this group within 212NYC.org: https://www.facebook.com/212ConnectU
Cory, thank you for calling attention to this tried and true tradition within professional circles. Every profession benefits when we pass the torch, and its imperative in our industries that are constantly changing. Another point, often overlooked, is that I find I get more than I give - I learn more when I'm open to receiving and when I think I'm teaching...! Can we build a culture of mentoring into our professional communities? And Kara, regarding where/how to find mentors: Join LinkedIn groups, attend MeetUps, participate in social media, tweet out requests for a mentor, blog about what your next big career hurdle is and ask for support, attend Twitter Chats without leaving your desk! Here's a list of over 500 Twitter talks that happen daily: http://bit.ly/qzKb7V