Leading The Way Through Mentorship | Jessalin Lam, Learning & Development Manager, 4A’s
What is the greatest advice you’ve received from a mentor? How has that advice made an impact in your professional and/or personal life?
I have received a handful of impactful advice from multiple mentors, and I am grateful to have those kinds of people in my personal board of directors. The one piece of advice that has stuck with me the most is: “Take your time. I know you are ambitious, focused and have a clear set of plans laid out for your career path. You are still building out new strategy and you need to see all of your work plans come to fruition and play out completely before you move on to the next thing.”
This advice has truly kept me grounded when I start to think about new opportunities or my next move. It has allowed me to think about the big picture and remember that life is not about sprinting to the finish line. As the driven, impatient Leo in me, I remind myself of this advice quite often – to pause and reflect on learning takeaways from every experience. It is all in perspective of how you allow the journey to grow yourself, and I have learned to not rush the path and trust the process. When you learn to focus on the positive and enjoy the entire ride, including the challenges along the way, this is where the personal and professional growth opportunity blossoms.
What advice would you share with those who are just starting out in their careers? As well as those in mid-level positions looking to advance?
A key piece of advice I would share for those starting out in their careers and looking to advance is to nurture meaningful, strong relationships. I remember a speaker once said that your network is like a bank where you want to make sure you are investing in the people in it, and your network is your net worth.
In addition to recognizing the value of your relationships, always continue to improve your personal brand, as people are watching you whether you realize it or not, especially on social media these days. Learning how to position yourself on LinkedIn is another key for opening doors in your professional career. I was inspired by a career-driven friend who posted updates on LinkedIn about her career journey, and I started doing the same, periodically sharing resources, events I attend, or thought leadership articles tagging the people quoted. It has created more opportunities than I can count for opening dialogues with people I am interested in connecting with.
Do you think mentoring in our industry (and beyond) can be improved or enhanced? If so, how?
Absolutely. I was fortunate to be exposed to mentorship during my college years when I was the President of the Advertising Club, college chapter of AAF. Ever since I experienced having a mentor, I continued to seek them as well as pay it forward, becoming a mentor to others and providing resources I wish I had when I was their age for this next generation.
I strongly believe mentoring can be improved by creating different types of mentorship opportunities, including reverse mentorships, people of color champions, and male mentors to females. Many times when I mentor others, I am the first mentor they have ever had, or if I am matched to a mentor through a program, they may not know how to be an effective mentor. I am able to facilitate this and share what has worked for me though my personal mentoring experiences, and I think mentoring can be enhanced by coaching people on how to become a more impactful mentor.
As Maya Angelou says, “When you learn, teach. At our best, we’re all teachers.” It is all in the mindset of how you look at mentorship, and as Adam Grant recently shared, mentoring improves our mental health, as having a mentor advances your career and becoming a mentor adds meaning to your career.
What do you think makes for a good mentor/mentee relationship?
A successful mentoring relationship starts by building trust, getting to know each other, ensuring everything shared is confidential and encouraging honesty and transparency. Understanding communication styles and preferences is important to discuss in the beginning as well as the mentor being an active listener with undivided attention during the conversation. Compatibility and commitment are other drivers to a great mentorship.
I remember having a mentor who sent her first email to me laying out the ground rules of what she expected out of the mentorship, including the requirement for me to send my goals to her prior to every meeting – or else she would assume we were not having a meeting – along with a structured timing for meeting the first Tuesday of every month to commit to. Previous to that, I had more casual mentors, and I was questioning this different approach. Now, I will never forget how effective and productive the mentorship was for me, and her structured approach worked well in pushing me outside of my comfort zone to grow.
*Please Note: All statements are the opinion of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of The ADVERTISING Club of New York.