Written by Alex Campanelli + Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
Mentor (n): an experienced or trusted advisor.
Synonyms: advisor, guide, guru, counselor, consultant.
I’m a millennial. I graduated in the spring of 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies, five figures in student loan debt, and my childhood bedroom awaiting me.
During my college summer vacations, I worked as a Public Relations intern in my hometown of Washington DC, and considered pursuing a post-grad career in the field. After several frustrating and enlightening interviews, I learned that it probably wasn’t going to be the case. So I moved on to Plan B: Marketing.
To pursue a field that doesn’t necessarily coincide with your degree is a risk, but I gave it a shot. Five months and many entry-level applications later, I learned about a Marketing & Events Specialist role through a sorority sister of mine. Within five days I applied, interviewed, and accepted the job offer.
While this first job wasn't particularly challenging for me, it taught me a lot. I learned a great deal about the kind of employee I am, the kind of work environment I need, and what different types of successful (and unsuccessful) management styles look like. While I did learn some new skills, what I took away most from the experience was my mentor.
Only one year older than me, she was an absolute powerhouse. People respected her because she took no shit from anyone, and the quality of her work was truly outstanding. She carried herself in a way I envied, and she always seemed to have the perfect response to any and every email, no matter the issue. She mentored me with an ease: by walking me through things step-by-step, by delegating responsibility, and by becoming a fast friend and confidante.
As millennials, we want to find mentors. Log on to LinkedIn on any given day, and someone in your network will almost certainly share an article about finding or becoming a mentor. What some people don’t realize is that mentorship is the most organic process in the world. You should never have to formally approach someone and ask him or her to be your mentor; it just happens.
"He wants to see me succeed; he's a great person to have in my corner. That’s something we all deserve."
After eleven months at my first postgraduate job, I moved to Boston. I was terrified about doing so without a job in place, but that’s where I wanted to be, and as they say, sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. I eventually secured a Marketing Specialist position at a software startup, working directly under the VP of Marketing. I knew from the get-go that as a part of a two-person department, this was going to be a completely different experience. Today, I am constantly growing in my role and still excited to head to work each morning. I’m offered (scary!) opportunities to learn new skills, hone in on existing ones, and travel, among other things.
Not all of this would be possible without the mentorship of my current boss. As I'm a beginner in my field, he took the time to learn about the goals I set for myself from day one — both financially and professionally. He understands where I want to go in my career, and has taught me so much about marketing as well as the tech industry. His network —something he has cultivated over the last 15+ years—is something I know will come in handy for me in the future. He wants to see me succeed; he's a great person to have in my corner. That’s something we all deserve.
One of the things I love most about millennials is our constant hunger to do more: to teach ourselves a new skill, to start our own side hustle, and to use our mountains of resources available to expand our professional networks — and ultimately, invest in our success.
If you do not see any potential mentors within your work environment, look harder. Look for the person with an abundance of experience in your field, who exhibits the leadership characteristics you desire, and as an added bonus, is down to earth. If you can truly cultivate authentic relationships with your colleagues, good things will come.
You may find a mentor in the most unexpected of places. Maybe you don’t even find one at your current position; maybe you meet outside of work. You can’t force anyone into a role they don’t willingly enter, but eventually you’ll find each other. Then, you’ll find yourself learning, growing and setting goals – only to surpass them.
One day when you least expect it, you will become that person for someone else.
The circle of life continues.
Alex is a Washington, DC native and recent Boston transplant whose true loves include writing, good beer, and burritos. She is currently the Marketing Specialist at a software startup, and hustling her way to writing her first book on being a biracial millennial in the US. (She was also one of our first featured babes here on BWH!)