Leading The Way Through Mentorship |Michelle Aragon, SVP, Business Solutions, MAGNA Global

Tell us how your mentor has supported and elevated your career.MAragon_Headshot.JPG

This is tricky for me to answer. As a first-generation college graduate, I was unaware of what a mentor or sponsor was/could do for my career development. I’ve always been an observational learner, so early in my career I pieced together “mentorship” by watching people I admired. Admittedly, that kind of unilateral relationship lacks support, specificity, and dialogue. I always relied on my “figure it out” independence, which can get you to a certain point, but it doesn’t prepare you with the invaluable knowledge and experience a mentor(s) can provide.

Since the concept of a mentor wasn’t a part of my formative years, it wasn’t something that I understood how to leverage. Finding a mentor(s) is very personal and needs to be a mutually invested relationship. That’s why relating on a fundamental level of shared interests and experiences that can inform decision-making is imperative. About six years ago, I began to focus on building my network of mentors. I grew them organically through the associations that aligned with my passions, Ad Club being one of those resources. It took a lot of time and effort to cultivate and grow these relationships. Now, I have a trusted group of women and men that provide advice, guidance, and friendship.

My collection of experiences coupled with my go-to network are really what propel me forward in my career, along with tenacity and persistence! While I wasn’t always certain of the direction I was headed as I zig-zagged through my journey, my mentors have helped me focus on navigating career milestones and long-term goals.

What are some tips you would give to a new mentor in how to spot, train and elevate a rising star?

It’s become a personal mission of mine to groom the next generation of leaders, specifically people of color in our business. While everyone can learn something from someone else, I think mentorship is really forming a long-term bond. I truly believe it’s critical for an organic connection or a shared life experience to bring two people together for a successful mentorship match.

As an example, we recently held a Speed Mentorship Mixer (think speed dating, but for mentorship advice) at our organization. It was so much fun! After the event, an attendee emailed me asking if I’d be his mentor. I was flattered to receive his request and immediately thought he could benefit from some feedback on his initial request to apply it moving forward. During that 30-minute chat, we discovered that we had similar backgrounds as first-generation college graduates, Latinx families, non-linear career journeys, etc. He has so much potential, and I could pass on many of the lessons I learned the hard way. We now meet once a month to connect personally and professionally on anything from writing a self-performance review to advocating for himself in his current role.

There are many unwritten rules when it comes to your career. You know the adage, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” For me, it’s about seeking out those who don’t have the knowledge, connections, or resources to guide them in a manner that lets them shine. It’s not about seeking out “rising stars;” it’s about providing equal access to opportunity.

My biggest tip is: anyone can be empowered to be a mentor. There are many social and emotional skills that need to be applied in the workplace daily to help others be better managers and leaders. Recognizing that your experiences have value, whether you have one year or decades, those experiences are worth sharing to help elevate others in their careers.

*Please Note: All statements are the opinion of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of The ADVERTISING Club of New York.