How to choose a great mentor
One of the best ways to gain knowledge and to excel within the media industry is through guidance and advice from a mentor. A mentor can help you develop your strengths and overcome your weaknesses, can encourage and inspire, and can optimise your professional skill set. It is of utmost importance that you choose wisely with a mentor, and have a clear understanding of their experience, values, and what you are striving to acquire and gain.
1. What are you looking to gain?
Before you begin your search for a mentor you need to acknowledge what your short- and long-term goals are and what support you would like from your mentor. Whether that is primarily advice and guidance, or an opportunity to shadow and develop new skills and ways of thinking to excel in your industry. It is always important to have a clear idea and vision before searching and deciding upon a mentor.
2. What qualities and skills are you looking for?
Once you have recognised what you wish to gain from a mentor, it is important to consider their industry experience, expertise, and personal values.
Values: Do you share the same values as your mentor? Do you feel as if they have a positive and healthy work-life balance? Do they enjoy their career? It is important to ask yourself these questions, and whether you have similar values personally in conjunction with considering your career aspirations.
Compatibility: Do you feel as if you could work successfully alongside your mentor? Do you feel as if you trust them to effectively guide you towards your professional goals? This can be distinguished through scheduling meetings before any agreements – these can range from digital conversations, such as video calls, email exchanges, or through meeting in person.
Experience: Are they working your dream role as a reporter or editor in a newsroom? Or do they have experience in an area that you are passionate about? Are they someone you look up to and aspire to learn from? A great mentor will let you benefit from their mistakes and successes through sharing their formula of how they overcame challenges, or succeeded within their industry. They can also provide opportunities for shadowing, which can enable you to understand their line of work and to gain access to a wider network of industry professionals.
Expertise: Do they have technical knowledge, and skills within media production and communication? Do they have brilliant writing skills, and can they simplify complex information? Or have they mastered a variety of media types, such as copywriting, text stories and podcast scripts? Expertise is highly important when deciding upon a mentor and will be highly beneficial for gaining knowledge in your field.
3. How do I approach a mentor?
Now you have a detailed idea regarding the type of guidance and expertise you are hoping to gain from your mentorship. So what’s the next step? It is important to research thoroughly and approach a variety of mentors on platforms such as LinkedIn, for people that fit your requirements. Remember, it does not need to be an expert with 20 years of experience, you can gain a lot from someone only slightly more experienced than you in your field.
Approaching a mentor can be daunting, so it is important to put together an elevator pitch which will concisely and effectively communicate the guidance you are seeking. This can include information regarding your career aspirations, the reasoning behind why you are reaching out to them specifically, how you value their expertise, and their industry experience. It is important to confirm your willingness to do the work required and to express your eagerness to learn, and to not only professionally develop but to personally gain skills in your desired field.
A few great examples of how to produce an elevator pitch:
Hopefully this guide will enable you to consider your priorities when choosing a mentor; and will help you to grow professionally. It is also important to remember that alongside working with a mentor, you will have to be prepared to be a great mentee. You can achieve this by asking insightful questions, being proactive and prepared, and to always take responsibility and ownership for your development.
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