The importance of mentorship
I was invited to be a guest speaker on a brand new podcast launched for Electronic producers & musicians to grow their brand and business. On this episode I discuss the importance of mentorship, looking for mentors, and how to approach.
Listen to the podcast on any of the services below:
What is mentorship?
Historically, many industries couldn’t rely on the education system to provide applied knowledge or practical knowledge to incoming workers in a particular field. Apprenticeships were primary vehicles to acquiring a useful education in a given industry. Fast-forward to today, and for-profit schooling reigns supreme, knowledge is locked up and held for ransom with no actual guarantee of job placement. Academic knowledge often doesn’t translate to practical business experience.
Today, mentorship is hidden in plain sight. Mentoring has become more of a social mechanism than purely a business one. Many of the conventional opportunities have disappeared over the decades, as unethical business practices abusing the role have marred the social stature of an internship’s function.
Internship opportunities do still exist but maybe incredibly competitive to get into. However, anyone can be a mentor. Here are a few core requirements to qualify them.
The right mentor for the right goal
You might go to your parents for advice on parenting because they have the experience. You probably would not want their advice for starting a business if they’ve never owned or built a successful business. Your first step in identifying a good mentor is identifying what it is specifically you want to learn and grow in. You might have a grand vision for what you dream of becoming. Break your dream down into small, bite-sized goals, and this will help you identify what qualities to look for in a mentor.
When seeking a potential mentor out, it might help to first identify who our heroes are. For most of us, our heroes are likely going to be people already at the pinnacle of their career. They might be the leading example of everything we want to attain and thus be the perfect mentor to learn from, but their availability will be scarce.
That’s okay because our best mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone in the same field that we want to learn in or be as far ahead of us in their career. Chris Graham – a cohost of the Six Figure Home Studio Podcast, revealed he knew marketing from the time he spent working for a dentist as his mentor.
The importance of mentorship is about shortening the feedback cycle. In the podcast I was interviewed on, I referred to the revolutionary leap forward in photography when DSLR cameras hit the market.
Before digital, it would take hours or even days to arrive at a visible result. This was a considerable investment of time & effort to decide whether the photo taken was deemed “good” by the photographer. When digital photography hit the market, that feedback cycle was reduced to fractions of a second because you could instantly view it on a screen the moment after it was taken.
What a great mentor can provide is corrected practice. If we operated in a complete vacuum, we might eventually evolve and grow. The point of mentorship is to accelerate our growth rate by helping us see our flaws, blind spots, areas of strength and weakness.
The Networking Advantage
Another considerable potential for our personal and professional growth that mentors can tangentially provide is the opportunity to tap into their network. Whether we’re learning skills that might allow us to directly compete with them or compliment them, their network can be equally as valuable as what you’re learning from them.
The mentor can provide opportunities to leverage the skills you are learning if they come into offers they may not necessarily want from within their network. Instead of saying no, they get an added bonus of providing a solution without being directly involved.
Looking for mentors
There really is no singular avenue for finding mentorship. Anyone can be a potential mentor, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each of the routes covered below:
This is still hailed as the most significant opportunity, simply because of the intimate nature in which everything can be learned. The environment you’re in, the people you are surrounded by, and even the body language and spoken language all culminate in an immersive experience that yields the quickest growth results simply by being mentored in-person. This can be hard to find, however, so here are some ways you can begin to search for them:
- B.2.B.: functions may include listening parties, mixers, seminars, networking events. Look for local activities on social media and other sites like Meetup.com. If there is nothing in your area, consider hosting one yourself and using social media to find and connect with others who would be interested.
- Society & membership programs: Every society has programs available to the community, whether they’re volunteer-based or private. Get involved with a local AES chapter, Grammy chapter, A2IM, or AIMP section. These groups are gateways you can use as funnels to start searching for potential mentors.
- Live Events: look for other artists or engineers active in your local community. Knowing who else is out there already doing in your immediate area is crucial. Seek out local clubs, bars, or live venues. Be aware of what entertainment spots are in your area to start scouting.
Online & Remote
The internet has made the world smaller and more connected than ever. We can literally connect with anyone, anywhere, at any time, thanks to computers and mobile devices. This also means a plethora of opportunities await us. All we have to do is seek them out and connect.
Facebook groups are great places to start identifying who leaders are in a given field. Mentorship can be had through teleconferencing, screen sharing, and video chatting. 1-on-1 or group mentoring is available.
It doesn’t have to be completely interactive, either. Passive sources can be just as informational as the interactive ones, but I would put these lowest on the priority and importance list. If there are no interactive mentoring opportunities available, self-educating through online sources is still a viable way to grow.
Podcasts, youtube channels (reputable ones), training courses like Masterclass.com, ADSR, Groove3, and more have continually updated courseware on specific topics. Remember, specificity is essential.
I give passive development resources such a low priority because it can be deceptively easy to confuse passive education with actual growth. Passive material is a double-edged sword that requires a level of self-awareness that even seasoned veterans struggle with. Without that self-awareness, you can spend countless hours consuming media without putting it to practical use. Beware of this phenomenon when traversing this route.
Approaching a mentor
To steal a famous quote, “fortune cannot aid those that do nothing.” What will separate you from the nine others in the room is taking action. Don’t just take a little effort, be bold and take massive action. Simply being willing to go through the awkwardness of approaching and contacting will put you a step above those that are not.
Be the Offerer
The real differentiator after approaching will be what you bring to the conversation. Don’t just come and ask to be mentored. Offer something of value in the pitch.
In my example, when I approached Michael Romanowski of Coast Mastering at an AES section event, I opened the conversation up by asking if AES had any mentorship programs on mastering. When he replied that they don’t, but he’d be willing to consider something on a one-to-one level, I immediately made an offer. I proposed he choose his favorite restaurant or coffee shop to discuss what the opportunity would look like and what I could offer in return, and I would happily cover the bill.
As creatives, we fixate on the very end goal. We are busy envisioning getting the mentorship, which is where most of us get tripped up. We’re looking too far down the pipeline. If we’re still in the dugout, we need to get on the field first. Just get the date – get a yes; make that your primary goal and forget about everything else that comes after.
Once the offer is made, show initiative by following up. Be courteous, but persistent – unless a firm no is given. This is another critical stage where the prospective mentors are gauging us for markers of our behavior.
We solicited them. Give the prospective mentor time to investigate the offer and decide whether it’s worth taking you under their wing.
Communicate precisely about what you’d like them to coach you on when following up. The offer should have clear boundaries and be mutually beneficial for both parties.
Define The Boundaries
Defining boundaries cycles back to the point above. The more clearly you can determine what you want their help with and how you want their support, the better the negotiation process can go. Be willing to offer something of value in return. This can include monetary compensation, but at the core – the act of negotiation is about finding the win for the other person.
The Six Figure Home Studio has an excellent podcast on the art of negotiation (#30: 11 Highly-Effective Negotiation Tactics Any Audio Professional Can Use) and I highly recommend it as a supplementary listen.
Proving your worth
Proving your worth isn’t just about proving your worth to them. It’s about proving your worth to yourself. We all have tendencies to limit our beliefs, and those limiting beliefs can quickly turn into negative self-talk. The best way to prove your worth is to start with humility. Be grateful just for the opportunity, regardless of the outcome.
Another favorite podcast I’ve been listening to of late is Max Out with Ed Mylett. A consistent key indicator of highly successful people is their genuine appreciation for everything, and he often uses the term, “everything in life happens for us, not to us.” In a mentorship model, our willingness to take criticism as an opportunity to grow will set the trajectory for where we ultimately end up.
If you found this useful, go follow Neologic Studios on Instagram, as I’m doing more and more stories and live streams on the music business, production tips, and growth. I also do most of my announcements on Instagram first, so you’re missing out if you’re not already following!
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