So, Britney Spears is out of a mentoring job on the American X Factor for reportedly not engaging with those she was mentoring. As well as being a bit “boring”. A good mentor, however, can be your person-shaped key to any industry you’re trying to break into.
Alex Baker from Kerrang Radio and Ally Oliver from Closer magazine came up with the following tips for getting, keeping and making the most of your mentor.
GET YOUR MENTOR
Approach the nicest person in the office and ask them as many questions as you want – “We’re used to work experience people, and are happy to answer questions,” says Ally, “making tea is actually a great excuse to chat and get a conversation going.” See, there’s an upside to all that tea-making!
Not got work experience? Do a spot of horizontal networking (don’t worry, it’s not what you think). Know someone who knows someone who is doing a journalism degree/work experience/has a cousin who works in the field you’re angling for? Ask them out for coffee via email – most people will be chuffed and happy to help. “Offer to do some interviews for free,” says Ally, “and they can look it over and give you some advice.”
Impress them with your dedication - Alex’s first mentor once asked him if he’d run down Birmingham New Street wearing a nappy, and he obliged. “The second listener competing for a prize hadn’t showed up, and he asked me to do it,” Alex says, “I’d spent most of my life until then trying very hard not to be nude but I said yes.” Thankfully the guy turned up in the end, but not after Alex had shown serious dedication.
Offer to do the grub work- “There are a lot of glitz-chasers who just want to meet celebrities,” Alex says, ” you can spot them a mile off.” Instead, he advises asking your mentor what the worst thing about their job is, and whether they’d like you to do it for free. “This also makes them love you, because they can just enjoy their job.”
Be friendly and grateful- Hey they’re busy people, they’re doing you a huge favour. “It’s amazing how many people we get in who are quiet and surly or, when you ask them to do a menial job, they shrug their shoulders as if it’s above them.” Ally says. Don’t be this person. It sounds obvious, but always say your pleases and thankyous and act as overly nice as possible.
MAKING THE MOST OUT OF THEM
Get in touch after work experience- “Sometimes we have interns who send us a thankyou card, followed by an email a few weeks later asking if there’s any work we need helping with,” Ally says. Even if, a few months later, you’ve got some spare time coming up always ask your new mentor if they need you to come in again. Sending chocolates also works well.
Pitch ideas and suggestions
Think about social media, creative ideas for brand extension and anything the company isn’t already doing (and could do with thinking about) “The advantage you guys have is knowledge of the internet,” Ally says, “I’m on Twitter and Facebook but I don’t know what I’m doing! You’ve grown up with it, so use that as your USP”.
Ask if they know anyone who can help you- They may not be looking for interns or extra help, but you can bet your mentor will be connected to people who are. Ask whether they wouldn’t mind flagging up anyone who may need another pair of hands, because you’re just SO DAMN PASSIONATE.