“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – National Mentoring Day

By: Esme Banks Marr

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay, Lil Wayne and Drake, Dr Dre and Eminem, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey… Just a few famous mentoring partnerships you may already be aware of.

Or, maybe you had no idea these people had acted as mentors or been mentored themselves. Why do you think we view these people as the inspirational leaders and successful entrepreneurs that they are? They have, of course, had a little guidance and support along the way! As we all know, life can be tough. It’s important to direct questions towards people you trust, certainly when it comes to our careers and business on the whole.

I’m a mentee and a mentor. I’m lucky enough to be the protégé of a handful of rather inspirational characters, all of whom I met around the same time – which funnily enough coincided with the start of my journey here at Magenta. A coincidence I hear you say? I think not.

Who knows, maybe I’m a leader too, but instead of self-proclaiming you’d better ask my mentee.

Protégé translates (from French) into ‘one who is protected’. This could seem like an odd moniker for someone who has been mentored closely, as the fundamental reason one seeks a mentor isn’t necessarily to be protected, as such. It is however to be protected from doing things completely on your own, or without consultation. A mentor is a whole host of things, a sounding board, a consigliere (for you Godfather fans out there), a confidant, an advisor, a person to grab an espresso martini with when work has got you down and you need some trusted counsel etc.

Mentoring is not really the same as coaching, at least that’s not how I view it. They’re similar in terms of supporting each other’s development but they involve entirely different disciplines in practice. Mentoring usually consists of a long-term relationship focused on supporting the growth and development of the mentee. A mentor becomes a source of wisdom and support but not someone who watches and advises, or even makes judgment on specific actions or behavioural changes in daily work. Coaching, on the other hand, usually involves a relationship that lasts a specific amount of time, with the aim of adjusting behaviours that could impede development and performance, either personally or professionally.

I attribute a great deal of my own professional growth to the guidance I’ve had from my patient, pushy (in a good way) and perceptive mentors, two of whom work here at Magenta – so were clearly in an excellent position to be able to act as guides to me. No prizes for naming who they are, I’ve gushed enough about their support and guidance over the years. The other (hewhoshallnotbenamed – no, it’s not Voldemort, I am inherently ‘good’ I assure you) is completely separate to Magenta, but does work in the industry we specialise in. He’s who I turn to for wider career advice, an external view on an internal matter, or subject matter expertise if I’m stuck writing or researching something. We’ve also had the opportunity to informally work together on a number of industry events.

A good mentor will naturally become a personal advocate for you, not so much in a public setting but in your work life. Mine certainly have, in both actually.

All of my mentors have challenged me to think differently but have also encouraged to find my own way, like any good group of friends should.

We all develop at different paces, but the influence I’ve had from mentors cannot be overstated. It has left a wholly positive and lasting effect on the way I see and do things. I’ve used everything I’ve learned from them with my own mentoring endeavours.

From what I hear, read and see – and given my occupation, it’s a lot – more and more companies are recognising the power and effectiveness of formal mentoring. Younger professionals too (although mentoring does NOT have to be related to age) are identifying the need for, frankly invaluable, support from more experienced professionals. I think it’s safe to say mentors also acknowledge the benefit of guiding someone, often using it as a self-reflective process. I know I certainly have. The wheel has come full circle.


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Ben Keeley