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 practical 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.
Mentorship, today, is often hidden in plain sight. Mentorship still happens, but the act of mentoring has become more of a social mechanism than purely a business one. In the music industry, and even with audio fields, it can be hard enough to get into internship programs to get the kind of practical education, and many of those opportunities have disappeared over the decades as unethical business practices abusing the practice have marred the social reputation of what interning is about.
While there are still many great internship opportunities out there still, that doesn’t have to be the only way in. Anyone can be a mentor, there are only a few requirements to qualify them:
The right mentor for the right goal
While you might go to your parents for advice on parenting because they have the experience, you might not go to them on 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.
Be specific. You might have a grand vision for what you dream of becoming, but 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 might 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. Chris Graham – cohost of the Six Figure Home Studio Podcast revealed he learned marketing from the time he spent working for a dentistry practice.
The importance of mentorship is about shortening the feedback cycle. In the podcast, I referred to a revolutionary leap forward in the world of photography that occurred when DSLR cameras hit the market.
Before digital, it would take hours or even days to arrive at a visible result to even decide whether all of the work a photographer did from snapping the photo to developing the negative to the enlargement process & final print resulted in a “good” photo they could be proud of. When digital photography hit the market, that feedback cycle was reduced to fractions of a second!
With mentorships, what you should be looking for is corrected practice. If we operated in a complete vacuum, of course, we would eventually evolve and grow. The point of mentorship is to accelerate the rate of our growth by helping us see our flaws, blind spots, areas of strength and weakness.
The Networking Advantage
Another huge potential for our personal and professional growth that mentors can tangentially provide, is the opportunity to tap into their network. Whether we’re learning from them 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.
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 avenues covered below:
This is still hailed as the greatest 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. This can be hard to find, however, so here are some ways you can begin to search for them:
- B2B functions, which may include listening parties, mixers, seminars, networking events. Look for local ones first 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. Getting involved with your local AES chapter, Grammy chapter, A2IM or AIMP section may be a gateway to connecting with professionals that can give you a huge funnel to start searching through.
- Live Events: even searching for other artists or engineers active in your local community can be valuable. Knowing who else is out there already doing it is crucial. Go to a local club, bar, or live venue. Be aware of what entertainment spots are in your area to be able 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 all have continually updating courseware on specific topics. Remember, specificity is key.
Approaching a mentor
To steal a famous quote, “fortune cannot aid those that do nothing”, what will separate you from the 10 others in the room is taking action. Don’t just take a little action, be bold and take massive action. Simply being willing to go through the awkwardness of approaching and contacting will put you a step above the rest that is not.
Be the Offerer
The real differentiator after approaching will be what you bring to the conversation. Don’t just approach 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 1-to-1 level, I offered to let him choose a place to discuss it over lunch, and I would happily cover the bill.
As creatives, we fixate on the very end goal. We are busy envisioning the result of getting the mentorship, and this 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 they’ve given you a firm no. This is another critical stage where the prospective mentors are gauging us for markers of our behavior. We solicited them. Give them time to investigate the offer and decide whether it’s worth it to take you under their wing.
When following up, it helps to get precise about what it is you’d like them to coach you on. Again, specificity is key. The offer should have clear boundaries and be mutually beneficial for both parties.
Define The Boundaries
This cycles back to the point above – being the offerer. The more clearly you can define what you want their help with, and how you want their help, 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 easily 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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