By Iolanthe Denman
By now you’ve heard the buzz. Whether you’re fresh out of college, or a seasoned professional, you’re regularly reminded: Mentoring matters. Many organizations and schools have formal programs designed to connect industry and academic leaders with mentees looking to learn and grow. High-profile entrepreneurs, athletes and politicians often credit much of their success to building and maintaining mentoring relationships. Clearly, something’s working. So why is mentoring important and how can it help you?
Whether you’re looking for feedback on an important project, or networking and interview coaching during a time of transition, it’s good to have an industry expert and trusted advisor in your corner to help you realize your ambitions and meet your goals.
Visualizing and setting goals
After college, I spent my 20s working in HR and as an executive assistant. A decade later, while supporting a PR and Marketing team, I met Atle Erlingsson, a Communications leader who became a mentor and role model to me. During our check-ins, he challenged me to vocalize my ambitions (namely writing to inspire and engage) and set a plan to meet my goals. He encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and realize my untapped potential by attending night classes and taking on stretch projects. It was hard work, but with his counsel, I found the confidence to stay the course and make the move into the world of Communications.
The power of perspective
There have been times in my career when I’ve worried unnecessarily about a project. It happens to the best of us. You spend so much time finessing the details that you lose sight of or neglect key priorities. A good mentor can pull you back and help you regain your focus. No matter how smart you are, you’ll always benefit from a fresh perspective because no one learns or grows in a vacuum.
Planting the seed and cultivating confidence
Building a successful partnership takes commitment. The mentee drives the relationship by scheduling meetings, sharing agendas and setting goals. The mentor, in turn, provides advice, support and strategic insights to guide and inspire. By taking the lead, a mentee also builds the confidence to speak up in meetings, pitch for high-visibility projects and strengthens their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Outside counsel from someone in-the-know
As communicators, we spend the majority of our time writing for and catering to our target audience while often neglecting our long-term goals. Many in-house professionals only have a small pool of colleagues–typically their immediate teams and supervisors–with whom to vet their big-picture ideas. Freelancers can feel isolated, moving from project to project without a defined support system. For many, there’s rarely enough time to reach out, or it feels “too close to home”. SF IABC’s program takes the guesswork out of the process by pairing external industry experts within the local chapter with mentees looking to build their skill sets and strengths. No awkward “will you be my mentor?” email requests involved! A free benefit to members, it provides the structure and suggested approaches to build a meaningful relationship that gets results. Consider it an investment in your career and success!
Today, Atle and I continue our partnership through SF IABC’s Mentoring Program. I make myself accountable for setting agendas and following up on action items and come away from our check-ins with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence. That’s the power of mentoring.
Iolanthe Denman is a writer and communications strategist based in San Francisco with a passion for employee engagement and the city in which she lives.