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Where to Find a Mentor and Why to Have One

Mentoring-Canada

Advertising professional seeks brilliant, fun-loving, casual mentor to meet once a month for in-depth chats about life, work, goals, and accomplishments. Must be an excellent listener and provide insights and council. Knowledge of – and a taste for scotch is a bonus.

What exactly is a mentor? It can be a coworker, a boss, a friend or even a family member. A mentor is someone who listens to you, and advises you on work, life, relationships, or anything else for which you might need direction.

Mentors are there when you need them, to help direct you in situations that you may not have faced in your career.

Mentors teach, encourage, and support you. They can guide you along a path to success. They’re like your own personal Yoda.

For me it was all about guidance and sharing invaluable experience in the same industry.” Says Bogdan Grygorenko, cofounder of Ticket Creative in Toronto, about his mentor.

In order to find a mentor, you first you need to know:

WHAT YOU WANT FROM A MENTOR?

Mentors can be highly professional, buttoned-down, and meet in a formal setting. Or they could be the guy riding the longboard to his software company who meets you for a few beer after work.

You need to be comfortable with your mentor. It’s a relationship. You’re going to be telling them all your secrets… OK, maybe not ALL your secrets.

Mentors are there when you need them, to help direct you in situations that you may not have faced in your career. They can provide invaluable advice and learning. Like the advice Kathryn Slater, interactive specialist, illustrator, and long-time ad professional received from her mentor slash boss, after getting an unjust scathing email from the owner of a creative agency.

I once had the worst mentor who beat on me like steel, and I emerged forged a better man. Painful but glad I went through it.

The owner was accusing her of sending a last minute request to the creative agency. And when she countered, telling the owner that she had been in contact with the agency for weeks prepping them for the deadline, he called her a liar, an amateur, a junior not worth his time, followed by a curse-filled threat saying he would tell the client that she screwed-up so badly, that she had forced their agency to spend countless unbillable creative hours on last-minute and late projects

“Whenever faced with a bully”, Kathryn’s mentor told her wisely, “save a paper-trail. Cover your ass in paper. It’s your best weapon. It’s also why you should always read-over, and think, before pressing send on an email.”

Kathryn says, “I learned that there were always going to be people who are willing to play dirty. I learned that the office was no different from the schoolyard, and that just because someone owned a company, it didn’t make them good, smart, or successful.” 

These are the types of lessons your mentor can help you learn.

But of course there are some mentor/mentee relationships that might take a less traditional path, such as the one between Ben Kunz, VP of Strategic Planning at Mediassociates in New York and one of his previous mentors. “I once had the worst mentor who beat on me like steel, and I emerged forged a better man. Painful but glad I went through it.

Now that you have an idea of what you want (and what you don’t want) in a mentor, it’s time to start looking.

WHERE SHOULD I LOOK FOR A MENTOR?

The Office:

If you work in a mid-to-large sized company, speak to your HR department. Many of them will have mentoring programs in place to help new employees get settled, plot out a career path, or just find the best places around for a cheap sandwich.

Or, if you’ve worked at your office for a while, see if you can identify someone that you respect and admire. Someone whose opinions and ideas impress you. Once you’ve discovered that individual, invite them for a coffee or a lunch. Tell them you respect their opinion and would like some insights on your career path. I wouldn’t throw down the “will you be my mentor” sentence right away. Feel it out, like a first date. If you’re comfortable with the interaction, let them know how much you appreciated their help. And perhaps they wouldn’t mind getting together on a regular basis (once a month, once every three months) to have these discussions.

Volunteer Organizations:

I work in a very small office, so there are not a lot of mentoring opportunities internally. Luckily, I’ve been part of NABs for a long time and work with them, and the ambassadors (younger, advertising newbies) to put on events such as Speed Mentoring. When working with NABs, I’ve had the opportunity to provide mentorship, as well as be mentored.

There are countless organizations that can help you find a mentor. GDC, ABCOM, NABS, BCAMA, industry gatherings like LikeMind, Creative Mornings, MeetUps, etc. Do some Google searches and see what you can find. Start attending more events.

Other Avenues:

Not able to volunteer? Look to your university alumni groups, track someone down on LinkedIn, talk to strangers in your yoga or spin class. The more people you meet, the better chance you will find someone who could be your mentor.

There were lessons and situations that I’ve encountered that could have been much smoother had I had my mentors by my side.

A mentor does not have to be someone in your office. But they do need to be someone who listens and provides council. Unpaid. With no ulterior motive. They just want to help you achieve your goals.

And mentors can come and they can go. Not all mentor/mentee relationships are long term. But they are all a learning opportunity. There were lessons and situations that I’ve encountered that could have been much smoother had I had my mentors by my side. But because of the fundamentals they taught me, I was able to get through relatively unscathed. Perhaps even successfully.

It’s a special relationship and trust that develops. A friendship that extends into your work life. Someone to talk about problems, ideas, coworkers, next steps in your career, and how to deal with things when you’re no longer challenged.

The right mentor is out there. You just need to be open and choose wisely. And perhaps one day you’ll be the mentor someone was searching for.