A follow-up to Ashley Tenney's post, Starmaking: How to Mentor from Within
"To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour." — Sir Winston S. Churchill
Many of us end up in the legal marketing field by chance. At our firm, many of our legal marketers come from various backgrounds, including public relations, publishing, event planning, the corporate world and so on. Somehow, we’ve all found our way to the legal industry. Working in law firms is unique, even when compared to working in other professional services firms. Having strong mentors to blaze their trails ahead of us and equip us with the knowledge to blaze our own trail is one of the key ways we can advance and truly shine.
Mentors serve as a sounding board for ideas, strategies and innovative thinking. Mentoring allows for growth in ways we never thought possible and often leads to solutions to some of the most complex problems we face. I find my demanding to-do list — with an ever-changing "I needed this two days ago" deadline — overwhelming. My mentor has suggested ways to cope and prioritize these demands. There have also been times when I've had to make the tough decision to say no. Recently, two partners were working on a project, and they had different visions for the RFP response. My mentor helped me navigate the nuances of that situation by coaching me through what to say, which allowed me to successfully engage in a difficult conversation.
In instances such as these, we know that someone has our back and truly wants to help us succeed. We benefit frequently from the path our mentors have blazed for themselves and understand lessons gained from their successes and their mistakes. The strategic guidance we provide our attorneys is enhanced and implemented by learning from those who have gone ahead of us.
Although we serve our attorney clients every day, it is also important to give your mentor the respect and investment he or she deserves. We are all so busy, but senior marketers are even more so. To show your mentor you value their time and to make the most of your conversations, follow these five steps:
1. Be prepared. To get the most out of your time together, prepare an outline of items you would like to discuss and email those to your mentor in advance so she has time to prepare as well.
2. Concentrate on listening. Listening to my mentor's advice and executing some of the lessons she has learned in my day-to-day activities have helped build my credibility within the firm. Every time we meet, there are things I am able to give more thought to, or expand upon my capabilities due to something my mentor has recently experienced and learned from.
3. Think ahead. Good mentors encourage you to think about the future. Work with your mentor to set SMART goals for both your short-term and long-term future. If you don't start to plan for your future, no one else will.
4. Work at it. All relationships take work. Your investment is vital to your success. You can't just show up and expect your mentor/mentee relationship to blossom. However, with the right investment, it can be one of the most rewarding professional relationships you have.
5. Be yourself. It's important for you to get the most out of your relationship; you need to be honest and real. If you're facing a hardship, let them know. They could have gone through a similar situation and may be able to help you. Showing your true self leads to vulnerability and honesty. Sometimes, those things do not come easily in a professional relationship, but if you open yourself up, you open up the doors to even greater future success.
So, all you rising stars: Find a star-maker and go out there and shine!
Emily Woods is the events coordinator at King & Spalding LLP in Atlanta.