“If you want something, dream, dare, do. If you want something extraordinary, dream, dare, do, with great mentors. If you want to learn a powerful lesson about yourself, become a mentor.”
These are the words of Shirley LIU, the Global Vice President for L’ORÉAL, at a Ted Talk back in 2019. I like this quote a lot, because not only does it highlight the advantages one receives from having a mentor, but it also touches on the benefits mentors themselves gain during this process.
So, what really is being a mentor and how did it come about? Good question. The word mentor actually ‘dates’ back to, or should I say originates from, Greek Mythology. The concept first appears in Homer’s Odyssey, where Telemachus (Odysseus’ son) is helped and guided along the way by his guardian: Mentor, and thus the term was born.
Nowadays, mentoring is everywhere. Most of the largest companies in the world have mentorship programmes, and people starting their career as well as people at the peak of it are looking to get more and more involved in these programmes, reaping the benefits on both sides of the spectrum.
Research done by Randstad suggested participation in mentorship could reduce staff turnover by up to a staggering 49%.
Mentorship can be a daunting prospect. I don’t know why really, considering at the end of the day it’s just a friendly chat between two people, which in the worst of scenarios will just result in both parties agreeing they aren’t right for eachother. But the truth is, it is. It can feel as intimidating to the mentee as it can to the mentor. I guess it’s the part where you have to open up about some of your failures and negative aspects of your life to someone you look up to. Or fearing you may not be able to fit the shoes of someone’s desired role model. But the hard fact is that in a mentorship exchange both parties will win, no matter what happens, how long it lasts or who it is with. Whether it is experience, added knowledge or simply emotional release, the perks are undeniable. I will look to cover a few of these below.
For this section, I could easily populate the blog with a bunch of bullet points and facts I may find when googling: “The benefits of having a mentor” blah blah blah. Instead however, I would much prefer to highlight said perks through my own perspective, using my experiences with various mentors which have been important figures in my life (intentionally or unintentionally), as well using my on-going 5 month mentorship experience with Tom, the Business Director at Publicis One Touch, which I found through the excellent in-house programme run at the agency.
My first ever mentor was my dad. I think it’s safe to say this may be the case for a lot of people, whether that might be a parent, older sibling or any other family member. For me however, it was my dad. This is probably because he worked from home before “WFH” was cool. He was, and still is, an outstanding photographer, and his photography studio was located on the top floor of our house. I loved it up there and on weekends I would spend hours playing around with the equipment, or secretly consuming way too much candy out of the sweet basket he used to greet clients. He loved having me up there too. Not only because he could work away whilst still enjoying his energetic son’s company, but also because it was a great opportunity for him to shape me as a human being and prepare me for the world. Naturally, given my age at the time, I don’t remember every single bit of wisdom he bestowed upon me, however, watching his approach to work, his commitment and his passion to his craft subconsciously defined me as who I am today. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being mentored.
My second mentor in life was an old work colleague of mine, who I met during my first “real” job. He was approximately 5 years older than me, but also one of my best friends at the time. Despite the age difference being smaller than you would normally expect between a mentor and a mentee, it was in no way less effective. Thanks to him and the way he [unknowingly] took me under his wing, I was able to learn things about the working world at a much faster rate. I was able to adapt swiftly to the workplace culture, understand the right levels of professionalism and personalism, and just simply comprehend what made everyone and everything tick from 9am to 6pm.
To this day, he still has no idea he was my mentor. One day I’ll have to let him know.
During the month of September 2021, I decided to join the Publicis Mentorship Programme. I viewed many people in my own agency as potential mentors, but I was recommended to try someone external for a change. I had heard a lot about this programme beforehand during Octopus’ monthly meetings, and eventually I decided I wanted to give it a shot. This was a complete first for me, as the person who would become my mentor; help me better myself, give me advice and potentially send my career one direction or another was going to be… a complete stranger?
My first application got turned down. The potential candidate was too busy and had already taken on a few other mentees. I remember feeling down about this for some reason, it felt like a sort of rejection? After some weeks I decided to try again. I browsed the programme and eventually found Tom’s profile. Tom is the Business Director for Publicis One Touch, and since mid October I am very pleased to say he has officially become my mentor.
Since that first nervous, almost slightly awkward introductory teams call, me and Tom have developed a great relationship in which he has been able to teach, help and guide me through a number of different challenges. From problem solving, to recommending books, to giving me client advice or just generally being a good listener if I ever needed to vent, I am so thankful I decided to click apply on his profile when I had the chance.
I can’t answer this, I am not a mentor (yet). However, these people are:
“I would thoroughly recommend becoming a mentor. Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from senior colleagues who have taken on the mantle of mentoring me and ultimately become close friends. So, it was a no-brainer to sign up. I’m sure we’ve all needed an objective soundboard when grappling with a big career decision, or even something as small as the tone of an email and it offers great solace in being that person. The role isn’t to make decisions for the mentee, rather offer up an alternative point of view and ultimately help them grow in their careers.” Tom Fraser, Global Business Director @ Publicis One Touch
“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope in yourself” Oprah Winfrey
“”Being a mentor allows me to gain new perspectives and fresh ideas from outside my peer group. It is also a privilege to help shape the leaders of tomorrow and I feel very rewarded by doing so.”” Giles Shorthouse, Head of Business Development @ Octopus Group
“A mentor relationship is a mentor-mentor relationship” Simon Sinek, Author
“Being a mentor is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. It’s an opportunity to share your experiences and help others to shape and achieve their professional and personal goals. There is nothing more satisfying than being part of someone creating a successful career and realising their life ambitions. Organisations must recognise that in order to retain and grow their teams they need to make sure that mentoring is an integral part of their training and development programs.” Nicola Pestell, Board Director @ Octopus Group
Go and get a mentor. Go be someone’s mentor. Either way you will be making a positive change in someone’s life, and who knows, you might make one of those meaningful connections which take you to levels you didn’t think you could reach, and that can last a lifetime.
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