History has a funny way of repeating itself. Stock markets, politics, sport, take your pick and there will be many lessons we can learn from what has gone before us. That is not to say we live in a predictable world where the future is already written, far from it. We do indeed (to an extent) get to choose our future, or at least have opportunities to carve our own pathway.
The important point to take away from this unusual but intriguing start to an article about mentoring is that facing the future alone can be scary, without looking back to see what has gone before us, learning from those that have ‘been there and done that’ we widen the probability that the wrong type of history will repeat itself.
Having someone there to guide you, share experiences and learnings is invaluable and nowhere more so than in Marketing, a profession that is too quick to focus on that shiny new thing, chase that next big idea or get lost in the vanity of likes and shares.
This is where mentoring becomes a fundamental part of a Marketers career development.
That’s enough preluding, let’s get down to some valuable information to help you make the right choices when it comes to mentoring – what it’s all about, where to find the right one and what to do when you do.
What is a Mentor?
A mentor is someone who can support, advise and guide you in life. This mentoring can come in many different forms from life and business to sports and health and wellbeing, and depending on what you want assistance with will determine how a mentor helps you.
There is no set path here, no defined structure to the support given, nor a time limit set for this mentoring to start and end. Everyone is different and everyone has slightly different needs and a good mentor will define these needs and make sure the guidance given resolves any roadblocks and makes the future pathways clearer and more defined. But you still have to walk down these pathways.
Think of a mentor as the Obi-Wan Kenobi to your Luke Skywalker.
What does a Mentor actually do?
Setting an objective or understanding what you want to achieve makes finding a mentor much easier and makes the mentor’s role in getting you to achieve this objective much clearer.
In a nutshell, that’s what a mentor does, helps you achieve your objective(s).
For clarity, let’s take a look at a few examples of what a Marketing Mentor may do.
If you are unsure where your future lies, a mentor can help to bring clarity and support around this future, helping guide you towards the key decisions, opening doors and introducing you to the right type of people.
This may be a long-term approach to things where the mentorship lasts many years, perhaps even throughout the length of a career.
It also may be short-term to achieve a certain goal, at which point a new mentor may be needed to achieve the next goal. In these instances, it is all about the experience of the mentor and utilising this.
Remember – been there, done that is critical here.
There are so many different areas within Marketing that require specialist skills; PPC, SEO, copywriting, strategy, pricing, partnerships, events – it’s a long ass list!
Gaining mentorship focussing on a particular core skill can help to elevate your knowledge quicker and more effectively than simply taking an online course or qualification.
Tackling a professional qualification such as one from the CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) or the IDM (Institute of Data and Marketing) can be daunting, especially if you have never done one before. A mentor here, preferably one that has passed the qualification, can help you with;
1 – Studying: Understanding what is required and where to go for further learning
2 – Timing: Fitting your study into an already busy schedule
3 – Education: Helping you to understand the core topics and answering those tricky questions that crop up and you are unsure where to go for answers
4 – Accountability: Making sure you are on target to complete any assignments
The Mentee – Yes you!
So how about you? What is your role in all of this?
Your role as the Mentee is to show up, show up and learn, show up, learn and ask questions, show up, learn, ask questions and then do!
The hardest part is the doing, it’s also the most critical. If you don’t act on the advice given, the mentor/mentee relationship very quickly becomes a one-way street, where the mentor is giving advice, guidance and opening doors for you and you’re not reciprocating by maximising these opportunities.
Mentoring is as much about what you do when the mentor isn’t there as it is about what you do when they are there!
For example, if you’re looking for a mentor to help you find a new role or organisation and you’re not making the calls, writing the emails and chatting to the right people, then the mentorship just isn’t going to work.
You are the horse that has been taken to the water, but just won’t drink.
How to find a mentor
So how do you go about finding one of these mentors?
Is it a lottery?
Do you need to know them beforehand?
There is no set etiquette here, it is more about what you want to achieve, who you feel can help you achieve this and how you can make contact with them that is important.
This boils down to two routes:
1 – Just ask!
As we’ve mentioned before, a mentor should be someone who has the knowledge and capacity to help you and with this in mind the first step would be to identify someone who fits these criteria, someone you may want to emulate or you know to have the understanding/ contacts/ ability to help you.
Then comes the big ASK! If you don’t do this part you’ll never know if they’d say yes or not.
The advice here would be to not just blurt out and ask, but for both you and the potential mentor to get to know each other. Perhaps connect with them on a social channel (such as LinkedIn), start discussions with them, just in any presentations, seminars etc, before asking for help.
2 – Use legitimate channels
There are, as you would imagine a number of sites that can connect you to mentors, people that have put their hat in the ring to become a mentor. Check out CIM’s mentoring program: https://www.cim.co.uk/membership/mentoring/ as a great example of this.
Other channels to consider would be:
Meetups and events
Other social channels
Recommendations from friends and family
Should I pay for a mentor?
The short answer is;
It’s probably the most common question around mentoring. Mentoring, good mentoring, is done as people want to help others emulate their success or learn from their expertise. Paying someone for this privilege means you are paying for a coach, not a mentor.
In the end
89% of people that find a mentor become a mentor themselves eventually, which highlights a multitude of benefits around mentoring in general;
1 – It is satisfying for both the mentor and the mentee
2 – You get out what you put into it
3 – It works!!!