Mentorship

Thank you, next.

I swear this post isn’t going to be about my adoration of all things pink and pop-music. That said, any Arianators out there hit me up, we’ll chat over a couple of glasses of rosé.

This post is all about the power of mentorship.

I speak a lot about the importance of mentorship, of women being both mentors and mentees. And now as a VP at a global ad agency, I think of mentorship as my civic duty.

I think where a lot of women get stuck on mentorship is that many think it needs to be this very structured and formal relationship. But often, without even realizing it, mentorship commonly takes a much more subtle and informal arrangement.

For example, when I first started out in the advertising industry, I was an approval-seeking Account Executive, equal parts apologetic and eager. Hell, I brought cupcakes on my first day. I started most emails with “sorry to bother…”, spoke up in meetings leading with “sorry to interrupt…”. And as I progressed through my career the apologizing didn’t stop, it evolved to “sorry for being late” and, “apologies for the late reply”.

That is, until I met Cathy.

The agency I was at had a big presentation to Cathy’s team and, after going over by five minutes I (you guessed it) was apologizing. As Cathy and the team were leaving the room, she looked at me and brazenly said, “Do me a favour, replace sorry with thank you.” The conversation in total were those nine words, but that 2-minute interaction stuck with me. I mean at first, I had no idea what she meant but, sitting at my desk that evening, drafting the summary email and starting with “sorry for the late note” it clicked. And instead, I typed, “thanks so much for the time today.”  The next day walking into a meeting five minutes late I started with “thanks so much for waiting.”  And I’ve never looked back.

My point? Mentorship can be structured and formal, but it can also be subtle, informal and take just two minutes of your time. For me, sometimes mentorship takes place walking to get coffee, and some of the best advice I’ve received from my many mentors was communicated in simple, concise sentences – just like the advice I received from Cathy.

Also, and most importantly, for those chronic apologizers out there: I encourage you to take a sorry-detox. And much like me, I hope you feel lighter, less slouched and more confident. I’m learning to hold my apologies in reserve for when they’re truly needed or embracing silence instead. And in a culture that teaches women to apologize for everything – that feels like a quietly radical act.