The necessity of mentorship

Craig Lund on what qualities to look for when selecting a mentor

It’s the start of 2015 and we’ve witnessed another humble year in the marketing and advertising career realm.  As was indicated in Marketing magazine’s most recent Salary Benchmark survey, salaries and hiring have been pretty tepid.  This ultimately makes navigating career options especially challenging.

Having been a part of the American Marketing Association’s Toronto Chapter board for several years & co-chairing their Mentor Exchange program, I’ve seen firsthand the impact mentorship can have on an individual, myself included.  I can also see the difference in the attitude of folks who have mentors versus those who go it alone.

As we start the new year, I would encourage you to ask if you have all the support you need to get to the next level of your career.  The investment in time will pay back in spades, and you will see improvements in both your business and personal life. When it comes to being mentored, there is no Chinese wall between personal and business. They are part of who you are as an individual and both conversations should be a natural part of your mentoring relationship.

Want to find a mentor? There are many different programs to get involved with that can help anyone in business, not just marketing, grow. For example, the Women’s Executive Network recognizes the best female business leaders in its annual Top 100 Awards. WXN founder Pamela Jeffery says its mentoring program was created to connect the Top 100 with the next generation.

“A mentor challenges you [and] gets you outside of your comfort zone, asks questions to give you pause for thought, has conversations when things are going particularly well and encourages you to take that extra step,” she says.

At the AMA, the Mentor Exchange program was originally designed to support the marketing industry, it has since broadened its scope to include business leaders across other disciplines, which is important because marketing is becoming more interdisciplinary.

Both of these programs have tough admission requirements and are not free to attend.  This certainly shouldn’t deter you from trying to establish your connections with a potential mentor.  New York Times best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi credits his personal success with using this approach and building his own personal “board of advisors.”

When it comes to selecting a mentor, there are specific qualities you should be looking for.  In his book Who’s Got Your Back, Ferrazzi suggests asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is the other person willing to speak candidly to you? Do they have the courage to tell you the truths you need to hear? Will they allow you to be candid in return?
  • Are they able to be open and vulnerable with you? Are they understanding about your fears and struggles?
  • Are they ready to hold you accountable to help you achieve your goals, and overcome the behaviours that are holding you back? Will they let you do the same for them?
  • Are they generous in what they do for you?  Are they generous enough to let you help?

It’s been rewarding for me to see Mentor Exchange, now in its fifth year, producing so many success stories. For example, Yasmin Pallan, a director with Scotiabank who saw her career escalate after taking part in the program in its first year.  Her feedback: “It reignited my passion for marketing and made me appreciate so much more where I was in my career. I can’t say enough how positive an experience it was for me.” Another alumnus of the program, Lindsay Knowlton, credits the program with making the decision to start her company, Iron Lady Golf.

There are many other examples. Perhaps you can be one of them. Go for it.

Craig Lund is president of Marketing Talent Inc. and co-chair of the American Marketing Association Toronto Chapter’s Mentor Exchange program.  He is also the former president of the AMA Toronto Chapter. The organization will host the 10th Annual Marketing Hall of Legends Gala on Jan. 30. 2015

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