The 3 Stages of Mentorship

Photo cred: Chewy Chua

Already three months into the job, the new PR professional sat at her desk uncomfortable and lost. She wanted to ask her manager how to do it, but that would make her look stupid. Putting it off would only make it worse.  She knew, if she was going to finish this project, she was going to need some help…but from who?

Mentors continue to be one of the most valuable resources in my career.

Graduating and being thrown into the crazy startup world 2 weeks later, I may have skipped a few steps.  The lessons learned in an entry level job provide young professionals with the basics, and allow them to learn from the systems that their managers have developed over the years.  I never got those lessons.

That’s why I am so grateful for my mentors, and why I have so many!  But not all of my mentors are at the same level.

Depending on who you ask, a mentor can be a lot of different things.  I have 3 different levels of mentors.

Stage 1: Passive Mentor

  • I can ask them questions once in a while.
  • I’ll always get a response but it may not be prompt.
  • It’s possible that they have no idea I consider them to be a mentor.
  • They want to help, but aren’t necessarily concerned about my career.

Stage 2: Committed Mentor

  • I can ask questions whenever I want and will usually get a prompt response.
  • I feel comfortable asking for an introduction.
  • They recognize that I consider them to be a mentor.
  • They care about my career and like to stay updated.

Stage 3: Mega Mentor

  • I will get a prompt response whenever I have a question.
  • I connect with them regularly on a professional and personal level. (They’re a friend too)
  • I can turn to them for help with pretty much anything and they will help me.
  • They’re always asking about my career and trying to help.  They want me to succeed.

Having mentors in all three stages allows me to find help whenever I need it, whether the problem is big or small.

Up until now, I’ve never broken it down like this.  I don’t have a system where I try to push mentors from stage 1 to stage 2.  All my mentorships have been developed naturally.  Some get to stage 3, most stay at stage 1.  Regardless, I’m grateful for all.

Not only can you have different levels of mentors, but you can also have different types.  Providing yourself with a support system of mentors will ensure that you’re not going through your career alone.

How do you build your network of mentors?

Read more about mentorship.

“Creative Authority” and Why It Shouldn’t Exist

Photo cred: Bart "Cayusa"
Photo cred: Bart "Cayusa"

Lauren Fernandez had yet another great post on her blog the other day titled, Bridging the Generation Gap: How Do We Overcome It? The post and the comments are equally worth reading and should be checked out now…stop reading, go check it out. Seriously, go.

Okay…so while commenting on her post, I began to think about the concept of what I call “creative authority.” (I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with that phrase in this context).

The “generation gap” is in essence, the failure of seasoned professionals and Millenials to cooperate efficiently in a professional setting.  I’ve discussed my thoughts about this issue before. I think a big reason for this gap is a matter of authority.  “Creative authority” or the assumption that, as a result of a difference in age (on both young and old end), one’s thoughts and ideas outweigh that of others’ is never alright and should be eradicated from all professional environments.

On the other hand, “mentorial authority”, or the authority that a good mentor would practice on their mentoree, is a great thing that can benefit both sides.

I will use my experience in my internship at Ruder Finn Interactive as an example of what you SHOULD do.  I speak a lot about my summer internship experience and how amazing the people at Ruder Finn Interactive were at being receptive and supportive of my ideas. The person I worked closest with was Yan Shikhvarger who’s a great guy and smart as hell.

Yan was always receptive to, and supportive of my ideas and even let me take on projects on my own after seeing that I was capable enough to do so. He exercized authority in areas that were needed, by providing criticisms based on his expertise and guiding me through the processes that I felt unfamiliar with.  That is the type of mentor mentality, or “authority” that every Millenial needs.  I felt that all my ideas and thoughts were given equal consideration to anyone else on the project team. Yan did not practice “creative authority” and I am forever grateful.  I would not be as confident in my endeavors as I am today if he made me feel like my ideas didn’t count as a result of my age.

Now as I said, this existence of the generational gap can be attributed to all professionals, young and old. Authority has been drilled into us millenials for as long as we can remember, from parents, teachers, coaches, and now bosses. A general mentality that because we are younger, our ideas are not worthy of full consideration is something that has been apparent our entire lives. On the other end, many millenials have convinced themselves that their ideas are better than an older professional’s ideas.  They think that older professionals are too committed to tradition and have no innovation left in them.  Both mentalities hinder cooperation and are not productive.

A big step in bridging the gap is to break this mindset.  Young professionals must acknowledge that…

  • their ideas are just as good (but not necessarily better) as any other professional’s ideas, regardless of age
  • experienced professionals are experienced professionals for a reason… their ideas are what made them who they are and should be respected

Older professionals have to

  • encourage millenials to express their thoughts and ideas
  • give those thoughts an ideas equal consideration to that of their own
  • realize that incorporating those ideas does not make them look bad, but rather emphasizes their ability to spot a good idea

Ultimately, we all have to realize that there is nothing to gain from “creative authority”and everything to gain from “mentorial authority”.

“Creative Authority” should not exist.

How to Set Up a “Mentorship”

batmanrobin

In my last post I discussed the value both young aspiring and older experienced professionals have to contribute to the business community.  Whether you’re just coming out of college, or you’ve been at your company for 10 years, the collaboration of an expert’s experience and a fresh new enthusiastic millenial will benefit both parties.

Deidre Hughey was kind enough to provide some feedback and proposed a great question that I decided was worthy of a follow up post. She asks:

How does one know if another person is looking for a mentor? How do you approach someone and offer to be their mentor? Is it the responsibility of the professional/experienced person to offer mentorship or does it lie with the person seeking the mentoring? Outside of people like Patrick, who has set up a single location for both sides to meet and connect them, I think it’s difficult for the act to occur.

Just to clarify, I believe that young professional millenials and experienced experts have much to gain from working together whether it be in a “mentor-apprentice” setting, or just in general, equal collaboration with one another, as long as each party is respectful of the other’s specialties.    Either way, I agree, it is difficult for the act to occur. I will argue however, that if we open our minds to the opportunity, it could be very easy.  I will address Deidre’s question for both arrangements.

“Mentor-Apprentice” Arrangement

Yes, Patrick provides a great program connecting serious young professionals with experienced professionals.  To connect without programs like Patrick’s, it is the responsibility of both parties to do their respective parts. If you choose to establish a mentorship on your own, here is what should be done.

For the Mentor-Seeking Millenial:

It is the responsibility of the millenial to connect with the mentor.  They must present themselves in a professional and sincere matter that lets experts, or mentors know that they are serious about wanting to learn. To present yourself in this manner you must do more than tell the expert that you are serious and read their blog, but also SHOW it! Whether it be in social communities or even on their blog, take an active role, the opportunity isn’t just going to come to you.  Actively participate in discussions and learn more by reading many other blogs.  Then you can approach the expert to ask for a “mentorship.”

For the Mentor:

MAKE YOURSELF APPROACHABLE! I have found that many times experienced professionals have their smaller network of trusted individuals and are very closed off to others who have something valuable to contribute to the conversation.  This happens especially when the person wanting to contribute is a young inexperienced millenial who has not established themselves in the industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect Chris Brogan to start replying to every message he gets from random young new social media enthusiasts.  I also don’t think that every single person can really contribute something valuable to each conversation.  If a young individual has made a strong attempt to connect  and contribute as I described above however, it is important that sometimes, experts step out of their usual trusted networks, hear what they have to say, and act as a mentor.  Remember you may not need them now, but these young new social media enthusiasts are the future of what you have spent all those years building, and can provide you with a valuable alternative perspective.

Collaboration Arrangement

By collaboration arrangement, I mean simply the collaboration of an experienced professional and a millenial on a project or issue.  This is very simple and it’s a matter of respecting each other.

The experienced professional must…

  • be willing to connect with young professionals outside their usual network
  • be sincerely open to new ideas that the young professional may have
  • respect their views and opinions as an aspiring professional

The young millenial must respect that the experienced professional is well, experienced! They must acknowledge that:

  • they have had successes and failures and have learned a great deal from them
  • they have been studying trends and learning about their industry for a very long time
  • they have worked very hard to gain the respect and trust of their peers and colleagues
  • Experience is invaluable; enthusiasm and bright ideas only go so far without an understanding of the big picture, don’t forget that.

Or you can just skip all that and email Patrick Evans at patrickevans@gmx.com.  That works too (=

Go Giants!FBN-SUPERBOWL-GIANTS-PATRIOTS

Don’t Pass the Torch, Just Share the Light

Photo cred: Mark "the trial"
Photo cred: Mark "the trial"

I really appreciated and related to Patrick Evans‘ latest blog post on his mentor program titled Why You Should Be a Mentor.

He writes, “I hear so many generational experts and business professionals criticize millennials. We don’t work as hard as Gen X folks, we expect things that past generations didn’t and overall, we could be the opposite of the greatest generation. We need your help! He goes on to provide 5 reasons why professionals should consider acting as a mentor for our generation.

I’ve seen many Millenials / Gen Y bloggers that are proud and confident in their belief that they will succeed.  I have also seen seasoned professionals respond by describing the overconfidence and inevitable disappointment of our generation. A good example of this is Teresa Wu’s guest post on Chris Brogans blog and her follow up response on her own blog.

I really enjoyed Teresa’s post and felt that her intentions, to shed some light on the mindset and views of the future Gen Y professionals, was accurate and useful.  The discussions afterward, ehhh not so much.  Whether either viewpoint is right or wrong, I feel is irrelevant and I am always disappointed to find such unproductive discussions taking place.

The important thing is that we all have something to contribute to the community as Patrick described very well.  Seasoned experts and professionals have learned a great deal from their experiences.  They understand what works and what doesn’t. They have been put in real situations that have required them to use critical thinking and problem solving to perform their jobs efficiently given unfamiliar situations.  With such talents, they can truly be great mentors to younger generations who strive to find the same experience and hopefully, success.

In a time of great change, especially in terms of technology and communications, the millenials have a great deal to contribute in return.  While the great amount of experience that many seasoned professionals have developed provides them with knowledge and understanding in their field, it also instills in them a sense of routine to the traditional methods of practice. Of course, these professionals are still very capable of innovation and creativity but they must also acknowledge and incorporate the millenials’ young, FRESH set of eyes and ideas on an evolving industry.  Technologically savvy, communicating on the internet as early as elementary school, they are able and willing to contribute to the future of what the experienced professionals have worked so hard to build.

Instead of arguing about which generation is better, and why the millennial mindset is unreasonable, we should all be working together.  Through collaboration we will find true growth and success as a community, young and old.

If you’d like to mentor a young PR pro, send Patrick an e-mail at patrickevans@gmx.com. He is setting up an e-mail mentoring program to connect young pros with seasoned public relations and social media professionals.

Edit: There’s a very lengthy but good example of the view of Millenials on the WSJ here.

-David Spinks

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