Mentor- n– a trusted counselor or guide
(fun fact: In The Odyssey, Odysseus had a friend named Mentor who was responsible in seeing that Odysseus’ son Telamachus received an education)
In the advertising and communications world, for the past few years now, the industry has been quite vocal over the need for mentors. The young and restless professionals are taking the industry by storm (except the minorities, it seems) and with all this new blood, there seems that the people who are supposed to pass the torch are no where to be found. In a relay race, the team that mishandles the baton exchange will likely fall behind- or worse- be disqualified. Likewise, if the industry doesn’t get its act together, it too will face falling behind, or losing the race for talent to other industries (blast you finance!).
In AdAge, there was an article about what is best for new talent: small agency or big agency. The article points out that small agency gives the new talent an opportunity to not only wear more hats, but to also have closer interaction with those decision-makers in the shop. In a large agency, those kind of opportunities may not be as plentiful. Either way, the article sums up, if you’re in a big shop or a small one, if you have a good mentor, the young pros are set.
Then the article goes on about where to find these mentors, and as always, no real answer was provided. It said that the burn-and-churn nature of the industry doesn’t provide an atmosphere for mentors. The Burnetts, Ogilvys, Boguskys, Kennedys of the past are gone.
As a young entrepreneur and marketing geek, I too have searched for mentors. Some more promising than others, but nothing really concrete. It’s been an interesting experience for sure. What I have come across:
-Old supervisors seeing me now as competition (flattered, but seriously?)
-Older professionals who have no interest in mentoring
-Pros stuck in their ways and show teachings that are no longer relevant; or don’t understand today’s way of communicating
-Pros who haven’t had a mentor themselves
Or we would go to the table, asking completely different questions. The experienced pro would want to talk about the joy of new media, while I want to learn about building a cohesive account team. Nice.
Fun right? Sometimes it’s been amusing, other times quite frustrating. But my business partner and I carry on, watching documentaries, reading whatever we can, and learning from the successes and bumps in the road we experience.
So for those 40+ professionals that are complaining about the talent today, how about you take some time, step off the pedestal, and listen for a bit?