Behind many a success story is a fantastic mentor.
Even if people claim to have paved their way on their own, there’s a strong chance that someone was there early on to set them on the right path or give them sage advice.
These people can be the magic ingredient your small business needs to thrive, the person who tells you to keep at it when you’re at your lowest point, or just someone who gave the right advice at an opportune time. Whatever the situation, many people owe a great deal of gratitude to their mentors.
Here are six such people, who shared some great stories about mentorship with us.
1. Nancy A. Shenker & Jim D’Arcangelo
Not every mentorship story is a typical one. You may think that a mentor should by definition be older than the person they advise, but this isn’t always the case.
Take, for example, Nancy A. Shenker and her mentor, Jim D’Arcangelo. Shenker is the CEO and Founder of a marketing company called The On Switch. D’Arcangelo, six years her younger, has helped her with content strategy and marketing tech.
“He opened up a whole new range of career opportunities for me, just as my solid brand marketing skills ran the risk of becoming old school,” Shenker says. She believes that because of D’Arcangelo’s help, she’ll be able to continue her career for years to come.She describes her mentor’s approach as “tough but fair.”
He pushes her when she needs it, and tells her directly what she could be doing better. In one specific instance, Shenker was writing something that she believed was complete. She wanted to publish it immediately, but D’Arcangelo told her that it was too negative and needed a little work.
“At first, I was very stubborn,” she says. “But I have to admit that the rewritten piece still had my voice but was more intelligent and engaging.”Despite Shenker’s many years in the business, she isn’t afraid to admit that she still benefits from this kind of help. As she says, “You are never too old to be mentored!”
2. Kelsey Nelson & Hallie Fisher
Kelsey Nelson didn’t immediately click with Hallie Fisher, a manager several rungs above her on the corporate ladder at the small PR firm where they worked.
“To be honest, I was terrified of her,” Nelson says. Nelson describes Fisher as “a no-nonsense, get-over-it Midwesterner through and through,” and someone who, “quite literally pulls no punches and doesn’t just ask, but expects everyone on her staff to be great.”
That was a big wake-up call for someone who was new to the workforce, and it’s one Nelson truly appreciates now.
Over time, Fisher showed great compassion and encouragement. She was in Nelson’s corner when she was fighting for a promotion. When Nelson felt she had messed up with a client and was understandably upset, Fisher didn’t yell or get angry, but instead helped her come up with a plan to fix the problem. She was even encouraging when Nelson left her company for a new opportunity.
“She taught me more in the four years I worked for her than any stint at a four-year college could have,” Nelson says of her mentor.
3. Baochi Nguyen & James Beriker
Like many other mentors, Baochi Nguyen’s mentor is her boss, James Beriker. The two work together at a San Francisco startup called Munchery, Nguyen as VP of Marketing and Beriker as CEO.
But she did not always have a permanent position with Beriker. She worked as a contractor for a time, with her mentor giving her help along the way.
“He gave me a chance when I didn’t seem to have anything to offer, invited me to company events and strategy meetings even though I was just a contractor, and listened thoughtfully to my marketing ideas,” says Nguyen.
Because of the chance Beriker took on Nguyen, she is constantly motivated to prove him right and to be the best she can be at her job. “He highly motivates me to be successful, empowers me to make decisions, and overall he makes me want to be a better person,” she says.
While finding and getting to know your mentor can take time, these six people show us that a rock solid bond is what comes out of the mentor/mentee relationship. Despite one’s situation, mentors can tirelessly work through frustration and fear to ensure a bright future for those they hope to inspire.