The Whys And Hows Of Mentorship


In our efforts to be a productive industry resource, the PromoKitchen community launched a mentor program this year. Our goal has been to pair promotional products veterans with a young generation of new professionals. The first two rounds of veterans and young professionals have been successfully paired, and we are proud to announce that this new program is underway--but the response has been so strong that we could always use more volunteers! In order to continue a strong program, we need willing, capable mentor leaders. I know--you're busy, overloaded, short-handed, buried in a sea of uncompleted tasks--so why add to your duties and spend time helping the professional development of someone who does not work for you?

Here's why:

Improve the industry. As a collective group, we're better when we're smarter. Smart suppliers make happy distributors.  Smart distributors make happy buyers. Happy buyers lead to the continued use of our products and services.

Sharpen your skills. Teaching is one of the best ways to harness the power of what you've learned. You have gained a wealth of knowledge in your career, and you might be largely unaware of all that you have learned. When you are in position to teach someone else, all of this knowledge and experience will surface as you focus on relaying the message to your student.

Make connections. Last time I checked, it never hurts to have more friends. Being a mentor is a great way to branch out and build new connections with people (or generations) that you otherwise might never meet. My guess is that the young person you mentor might teach you a few things, too.

Honor your mentors. You did not achieve success without help. There are people in your life that helped guide you on a proper path. They gave without taking--and now it's your turn to have a selfless and positive influence on someone else.

Leave a legacy. Whether we like it or not, at some point we all will be worm food. Yes, you will pass down traditions and possessions to your children and grandchildren--and that’s great, but it’s not the same as leaving a lasting legacy in your profession. You have learned so much, it would be a shame if all that knowledge dies when you do.

Okay, you're convinced (or at least you are interested in learning more). But you have questions:

  • What is the time commitment?
  • How do I mentor properly?
  • What stuff should I do?

Here are a few simple things that you can do to have an impact as a mentor:

Build a foundation. Introduce yourself and share information about your history so they know what they can expect to learn from you. Ask specific questions so you can focus your time and energy appropriately. What troubles are they having? What are their goals? What do they want to learn more about?

Find tools. After getting to know this person, think of resources that will help you guide them such as articles, classes, groups and other people. Look for things that will help them on their path, and that will help you explain and expand on your message.

Set a process. Now that you’ve determined why they want a mentor and what you will help them with, define how you will interact. Will you meet for coffee? Phone calls? Skype chats? Will there be homework or projects? Have a conversation to establish a clear process for the relationship.

Check-in regularly. Don't wait for your mentee to ask for your help. Set a reminder on your calendar and check-in with them every couple of weeks (or however often you both feel is necessary). How's it going? Any progress on that thing we spoke about last time? What are you working on now? Are you having any struggles?

Challenge them. We all love a good pat on the back and a "job well done," but we grow when we are challenged. Regardless of what your mentee might say, give them something else to think about. Offer them a perspective that they haven't considered.

We really hope that this program takes off and is a productive use of time for everyone involved. If you have an interest in either being a mentor or being mentored, please sign up here: