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How Mentoring Helps Marketers Rise to the Challenge

Marketing is a fast and fluid field, one that’s especially susceptible to the transient nature of digital technology. Young, aspiring marketers looking to transition from the classroom to the office were raised in the midst of this technological renaissance, giving them an almost inherit level of digital savvy and comfort. This tech savvy will become more essential. However, college teaches only so much about business strategy and but an inkling of the role data plays in contemporary marketing.

Marketers need mentors—especially marketers just beginning their careers. Indeed, mentors are helpful in any business, but seasoned mentors can help new marketers realize the stability among the flux. “Marketing is a fast moving industry that often reinvents itself,” says Dimitri Maex, president, OgilvyOne New York.

Maex, along with five other top marketers, was recently announced as a recipient Marketing EDGE‘s Rising Star Award. The award annually acknowledges leaders in marketing education. “For young employees to have someone experienced to talk to, someone who can help them see which changes are truly substantial and impactful, it’s important.” Maex says.

Of course, the benefits of marketing mentorships extend both ways. As mentees gain context and learn the tricks of the trade, mentors keep abreast of the changes in their world through the eyes of new marketers.

Here, Maex and several other Marketing EDGE Rising Stars explain ways mentoring can have positive effect outside of what may seem obvious, while touching on ways both mentors and mentees can work to keep the relationship equal parts healthy and beneficial.

  • “You can master the science and art of marketing through training, yes; but mentoring can address everything else,” says Guillermo Novillo, head of global acquisition marketing, Microsoft. “Mentoring addresses the human aspects of the job beyond the workplace.” Marketing is such a broad, complex field that it’s impossible to learn all of the essentials in a classroom. New marketers need access to someone who’s been through it, someone who understands the human element of the business and can impart that context on them.
  • Many aspiring marketers matured during the digital renaissance, and with that came a broad range of skills and expertise. Mentors must recognize and harness the varied skills young people are bringing to a business. “Young people are going to be digitally savvy, so mentors must take advantage of that and give them opportunities to be leaders in places where they can be leaders,” says Emily Riley, chief operating officer, Evidon.
  • Mentees should seek advice and knowledge from non-marketers to help round out their background. “Mentees should find mentors that may have a marketing background, but now does something else,” Riley says. “That way they can see how marketing connects to other pieces of the business.”
  • In these post-Great Recession times, many employees aren’t staying with companies longer than a few years. Marketing isn’t immune to the higher turnover rates affecting every business. However, mentors can function as something of a totem for young marketers. Strong mentor/mentee relationships can foster a sense of loyalty within an organization. “Marketing is a promiscuous industry, at least in the agency world,” OgilvyOne’s Maex explains. “Mentoring can help companies keep their employees longer and can help young employees, especially gen Y, understand that there are viable career paths within a single company.”
  • “As a mentor you’ve had a number of life lessons and you can talk to mentees about what you’ve done wrong as well as what you’ve done right,” says Carrie Parker, director, American Express OPEN Forum. “There’s a mutual opportunity for learning here and it should be embraced. “Everyone makes mistakes, but ambitious marketers often make the same ones as their marketer neighbors. An open, two-way mentoring relationship can help stave off some of those inevitable mistakes that budding CMOs seem to make by keeping an honest dialogue flowing. 
  • Both mentors and mentees should be as upfront as possible about expectations going into the relationship. Mentors should avoid overextending to ensure their advice goes where it’s needed most, similar to the way marketers strive to deliver relevant content to consumers. “Don’t overpromise. Try to identify more with those you know you can help,” says Alex Wasserman, cofounder and CEO, TapFwd. “If you advise everyone across the board and spread yourself too thin you won’t be a ton of value to anyone.”
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