Why You Need a Mentor & Why You Need More Than One
Before getting into advertising, I spent 5 years struggling in the music industry. I was stuck in a dead-end, uncreative position without any real manager. I felt completely isolated and trapped. I felt like there wasn’t anyone I could go to for advice or help, which sucks. It was a challenge that drained me physically and mentally. I eventually discovered advertising and started portfolio school. There, not only did I find a creative outlet, I also found a variety of people who could help guide my career. It formed the basis for my network, and it was where I saw the power of mentorship.
So what exactly is a mentor? There’s probably a proper definition somewhere, but to be honest, I see a mentor as anyone who is invested in your growth and goes the extra mile for you. In other words, they don’t just connect you to your next paycheck, they help you grow as a person. They see potential in you and they want to bring it out.
Why You Need a Mentor
Beyond the reasons I mentioned above, I think we all need support and someone who’s going to be real with us. Your mentor is someone you can go to for advice, and let’s be honest we all have moments where we’re unsure what we need to do. A mentor also is, hopefully, someone who’s going to be honest with you. I always appreciate it more when I get the cold, hard truth (or told how I’m underperforming), rather that sugarcoated advice. It keeps me grounded and helps me create a tangible plan to improve. Just remember that mentors are people too, they come with their own history and experiences that color their judgement, so always remember to weigh your own instincts against their advice.
Who Makes a Good Mentor?
It might be your supervisor, which can be great for your growth and development within a company, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be a more senior creative at your firm or a seasoned freelancer. It doesn’t even need to be someone in your career field (but, they should at least understand it). In fact, one of my mentors is also my partner – the romantic one, not the art director kind. The point is, they don’t need to be wrinkled with grey hair, they just need to help you get better… which brings me to my next point.
Have More Than One
You’re not some young neophyte in a kung-fu movie looking for some isolated master to show you the way. In the real world, you will need lots of people to show you lots of ways, and from that you carve your own path forward. Different mentors will help you in different ways. One might help you push your creative ideas. Another might help you be a better networker. Also, having more than one mentor (especially if the one you have is in the company you work for) helps give you a variety of perspectives.
When I finished ad school, my mentor ended up giving me a job without even having to interview. I literally walked in, met the team and was ready to start the next week. That’s the power of a mentor, they help you move mountains. A good mentor is invested in you and your growth, they advocate for you to get promotions, good projects and fair pay. So if you don’t have a mentor, consider adopting one, and if you do, tell me about them in the comments.