Paying It Forward
I doubt there’s anyone who has gotten to their current place in life without someone else’s help. Somewhere along life’s path, someone with more experience gave them a bit of advice, shared good ideas, provided a job lead or a reference, or offered them an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have had. And it made all the difference.
Many years ago, fortunately, someone believed in me too. When I was fresh out of college and looking for a job in publishing, the baby-faced editor of a local start-up magazine took a leap of faith and hired me as part of his team. We were all really young and quite inexperienced—and yet, we were this happy little band of people working hard against all odds to launch a new consumer magazine.
My mentors, the editor and managing editor, were only three years older and had little publishing experience themselves, but they taught me a great deal about what was possible when you believed you could not fail.
I think about the gift they gave me in those early years and wonder where I’d be if they hadn’t been willing to teach and coach me. Mentors are an incredibly important piece of life’s puzzle—without them, there’s an empty space where experience should be.
At the PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference in New Orleans in July, I enjoyed listening to a panel of industry women talk about mentoring in the session, Women Mentoring Women: Creating Connections Through Leadership. It was moderated by Jessica Hutwelker, MAS, of Sunrise Identity, and panelists were Pat Dugan, MAS, BUDGETCARD, Inc.; Teresa Moisant, MAS, Moisant Promotional Products; Kate Plummer, Clearmount Plastics Limited and Carrie Sabo, CAS, American Ad Bag Co.
For 60 minutes, they shared their personal experiences of being mentored and mentoring others. I thought their comments were too rich to keep within those four walls of the Westin hotel ballroom, so here you go:
1. Mentoring is like a candle: if you light someone else’s light, it does not diminish yours.
2. When looking for a mentor, look for a work horse, not a show horse.
3. Take the time to “open the door” for someone else, especially someone new in their career.
4. If someone does a great job for you, pick up the phone and call that person’s boss and report how amazing that person is. That five minutes will go a long way.
5. If someone has mentored you, even informally years ago, take the time now to call and thank that person.
6. Take care of yourself first. That’s not the most popular thing to say but take the time to do what you want to do and reward yourself so you can be better for everyone else. If you are happy, it reflects in all aspects of your life.
7. It’s ok to say “No” when asked to mentor someone. If you are depleted, you are not going to be effective.
8. Mentoring does not have to be ongoing. Practice “spot mentorship.” Ask a newcomer to sit at your table at a regional association meeting or help someone out at a trade show.
9. What should you ask of a mentor? Think about what you lack and what someone else can do to help you find abundance. The onus is on the mentee. They need to say what they need. Maybe they need someone to call and ask: “How did your week go? What did you learn? What’s on your plan for next week?”
10. If you are going to be a mentor or mentee, put the time in to develop your relationship.
During the session, Pat Dugan told a quick story that has stayed with me. She remembered an early-career boss and mentor who, when asked for the meaning of success, boldly replied: “When Pat is better than I’ve ever been, I’ll know that I’ve been very successful. And I know that down the road she’s going to pass me by.”
What a powerful statement from a man with a great deal of confidence. I’m sure it filled Pat with confidence then, too.
Mentoring others or being mentored might be scary or uncomfortable but the results outweigh the risks. These two quotes mentioned during the session sum it up: Life shrinks or expands based on one’s courage. Fear is excitement without breath.
Who was your mentor and what was your experience? I’d love to hear from you at TinaF@ppai.org.