The ridiculously awesome value of mentoring

If you could give one piece of career advice to college students and young pros, what would it be?

For me, it’s about the importance of finding mentors in your field and building and sustaining professional relationships. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some pretty amazing people so far in my career. I’ve been able to grow and learn simply by watching seasoned pros do what they do so well. Many of my coworkers/supervisors have become good friends and trusted mentors that I can turn to for career advice and general support.

In particular, the following rockstars have helped me along the way:

Joel Michael
Joel and I go way back to my college days at the University of Dayton. He never treated me like a “student” employee, which helped me grow more confident in myself and gave me a chance to build my portfolio with some solid projects. Several years later, I still appreciate his ability to provide logical, sound advice on any issue I throw at him.

Jim Gavin
I could not have asked for a better boss in my first post-graduate job. Jim is amazing at what he does. Period. He has a way of providing constructive feedback that empowers you to work harder, rather than feeling put down or dejected. He’s also literally a rockstar and is genuinely a lot of fun to work with.

Monica Woods
Yup, she’s my mom. We have very different personalities but have ended up having very similar career paths. I am constantly asking her for advice and feedback. In turn, she’s also looked to me for help with things like social media. It’s a nice aspect of our relationship that brings us closer.

While there’s certainly a lot to learn from professionals who have been in the industry for awhile, I’ve also come to appreciate my relationships with those who are at similar points in their career as me. I like to think of it as “sideways mentoring” or peer mentoring. Among others, coworker-turned-friend Katie Gilmore, account manager-turned-friend Lori Snow and I have become a sounding board for each other on all things professional and personal. It’s nice to have a mix of perspectives among the various people I consider mentors.

And of course I hope that I’ve been able to continue the cycle by providing advice and support for up and coming pros, including interns in our office and students in my public speaking class. Regardless of where you end up in your career, we all start pretty much at the same place. I hope you’ll do the same in lending an ear to graduating seniors wondering if they’ll get a job or first-year students worried about landing an internship to start building their portfolio.

Have you experienced the power of mentoring, either as a mentor or a mentee? I’d love to hear your stories!

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10 thoughts on “The ridiculously awesome value of mentoring

  1. Wow, Mel. I’m flattered. I guess I never considered myself to be your mentor. You just worked so darn hard at everything, we just kept throwing more and more at you. Before we knew it, you had as much knowledge as the rest of us. From there it was all instinct. You make good decisions. Keep it up.

    • Joel, of course I consider you a mentor! Even though technically I worked at IDD longer than you 🙂 I love that we have stayed in touch over the years and I know I can always count on you for help.

  2. Mel, I like your observation about “sideways mentoring,” or finding peers midway through our careers who serve as sounding boards for us and we can do the same for them. I’ve recognized the importance of this kind of relationship lately, especially when it is missing.

    • Danielle,

      I have come to really appreciate lunches and happy hours with my group of friends. It’s nice to get their feedback since they are often going through similar situations and can relate in a different way than those with more years in the industry.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Melanie, well said. I have benefitted from our ‘reverse mentoring’ relationship as you so noted. The art of listening is as valuable, likely moreso, than speech. It’s why we have two ears and but one mouth. It’s not easy for some to humble oneself to seek out another and simply listen to what they have to say. I am grateful for you being my reverse mentor defined in our situation by a generation difference, not by expertise. You are my rock star whom I have much to learn from and you much to gain from me.

  4. I agree about the “sideways mentoring” being so important – even as important as typical mentoring. It’s really nice knowing that I can bounce ideas, thoughts or challenges off you candidly knowing that you could be experiencing a similar situation professionally.

  5. All so true! I’m fortunate to have shared in the many great names on this list and hope to find my starting place soon. You are definitely on my Rockstar Mentor list as well!

    • Glad to know the mentoring cycle lives on! It’s been awesome watching your career progress since first meeting you as an intern in our office. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you!

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