Mentoring: a mentor's perspective
One of our mentor/mentee pairings, Jayshree and Asher couldn't commit to the Meet a Mentor 4 dates and so they followed their own mentoring schedule with regular check-ins with Fran. In this blog post, Jayshree Viswanathan, copywriter at FCB INFERNO, details her time as a mentor, from the wisdom she imparted to what she learnt in return.
I became a mentor for Create Jobs entirely by chance, after the exceedingly lovely Fran and Kati approached a work colleague in the hope that they could pair him with a budding copywriter. Being swamped with various projects at the time, he declined but initially, unknown to me, he put my name forward instead.
On reflection, it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve had the chance to be a part of. As a relative latecomer to advertising, it’s taken me a while to shake the feeling of being less experienced and capable than my peers. I’d taken a weird meandering route into industry (arriving in Adland only after I’d done a Literature degree and a couple of years copywriting client-side), and I didn’t have the neat career trajectory of those who’d chosen advertising straight off the bat. So the thought of mentoring someone else – when I still feel like I’m finding my own feet on some days – always seemed a bit ironic.
This is why it was so eye-opening to be paired with my mentee Asher, who as it turned out, shared more than a few similarities with the younger me. After working in various marketing roles, Asher decided copywriting was what he really loved and now wanted to make a go of as a freelancer. He was even the same age I was when I made the leap! So many of his questions and concerns mirrored my own – but until we were paired up, he’d only ever met people with perfectly linear career paths. I realised that the story of my non-traditional route into copywriting was exactly the one Asher needed to hear. And I’m so glad that I could be the one to tell it to him, because it’s reiterated the importance of highlighting diverse and unconventional paths into industry for both of us.
As Asher’s call for a mentor came outside of the usual Meet A Mentor programme dates, we decided to go rogue and set up our own mentoring schedule with Fran overseeing. We met up in a cafe once a month to discuss Asher’s career goals, questions and any immediate work-related concerns. Our first big task together was to finesse his portfolio website and make it something that was more reflective of him and his thoughtful personality.
Looking back, I was quite extensive and probably a little blunt with my feedback!
But to his immense credit, Asher took my comments squarely on the chin and saw them as opportunities to improve and iterate. Bit by bit, we managed to strip his website right back and rework it into something he tells me he is much happier with now. It’s still a work in progress – but I think it’s now a much better reflection of the projects that Asher has worked on, and by extension, of who he is as a person.
'We have also had several important conversations around mental health, being creatives of colour, and copywriting craft along the way – which has totally transformed the way in which I understand the mentor-mentee relationship.'
As much as it is my role to support Asher, our sessions have begun to highlight aspects of my own skillset and career which I hadn’t fully appreciated before now. I feel much more invigorated by my own differences than when we started out, and in turn I hope that I can inspire Asher to embrace his own more fully.
Towards the end of our one-on-one sessions, Fran invited both Asher and I to give a talk to the latest Creativity Works cohort who were working towards a creative pitch at Wieden + Kennedy. We did a joint presentation on Tone of Voice, in which we ran through the basics of tone in both business and personal use cases, such as job applications and spec emails. I was so proud to be sharing a stage with Asher, who was a brilliant public speaker! And much like when I met Asher for the first time, I was struck by how much of an affinity I felt for the group, particularly the girls in the room, whose thoughts and concerns really chimed with my own from when I was starting out. The enthusiasm and engagement they all showed also left me feeling very excited and inspired about the future of the creative industry.
Though Asher and I have now reached the end of our agreed mentoring stint, we are still in regular touch about opportunities and copy-related stuff: so that warm and fuzzy mentor feeling continues to enrich my day-to-day. If you’ve ever thought about mentoring – and especially if you haven’t – I highly recommend giving it a go. Your mentee’s enthusiasm for your job/industry/craft will almost certainly remind you why you love doing what you do. And it might even shine a light on some skills you didn’t realise you had.
Meet a Mentor is a four-month mentoring programme that takes place in London, pairing creative industry professionals with budding young creatives. Our fifth iteration of the programme takes place from March to June 2019.
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