Five Truths for 21st Century Mentorship

I was so grateful for the opportunity to join the BBC team that traveled to New York City in June for the IABC World Conference.  Months later, I still can’t stop thinking about what I learned in my favorite session: “The Art of Mentorship in the 21st Century,” hosted by Erin Dick, Director of Communications at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

Erin’s presentation used real-time storytelling to show what mentorship looks like today.  She compiled and showed a video of conference participants sharing their own personal stories about how mentorship has directly impacted their careers and their lives.

The takeaway? Many people in the room, including me, realized we had an out-of-date picture in our heads of what mentorship really is. By taking a deeper look into what defines a meaningful 21st century relationship between mentor and mentee, we found mentorship doesn’t have to be defined by tradition. Specifically:

  • 1. Your mentor may not be older than you. There is much to learn from the wisdom of youthful fearlessness.
  • 2. Your mentor may not be from your chosen profession. Having a strong connection with someone from an entirely different profession can help you paint a broader picture of holistic success
  • 3. Mentorship doesn’t have to follow a formal process. While it’s great to have a regularly scheduled meeting time and a list of questions at the ready, the mentoring process doesn’t have to follow a strictly adhered-to format
  • 4. Geography shouldn’t dictate mentorship capabilities. Carving out an uninterrupted space for a phone or video chat with your mentor can be a rewarding and efficient use of your time.
  • 5. You can’t just “Google it.” There’s something to the person-to-person connection that the Internet can’t replace. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. You won’t reap the real benefits of mentorship by looking for great examples of it online.

Erin left us with this: If you have a mentor – someone in your life who listens, challenges you, someone with whom you have mutual trust and respect, someone who, just by being there, helps you find answers within yourself – by all means TELL THEM that they are your mentor!

I took this advice to heart and told a longtime friend and fellow songwriter, Sarah Grain, that she had taught me by her actions a great deal about the art of focused, one-on-one communication. Even though she is eight years younger than me and lives 2,000 miles away, I feel smarter every time I hang up the phone with her. After the conference, I called her and told her that she was my mentor. Turns out, I am hers as well.