Remember that awesome high school teacher who completely changed your life? She/he believed in you, told you that you would make something of yourself and helped you navigate your incredibly complex teenage world?

That’s what mentorship is like. While we’re no longer teenagers, everyone still needs a trusted confidant, a support system, and someone who is truly in their corner. I had the great fortune of being paired with entertainment and marketing guru, Tricia Melton. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and more than that, I was lucky enough to gain a true friend.

Tricia and I hit it off immediately. Perhaps it was our blunt charisma, severe extroverted nature, or just plain comfort in being ourselves. Whatever the case may be, I knew that I had someone who was selflessly interested in helping me achieve my professional ambitions. I’ve been involved in several mentorship programs over the course of my career and I can honestly say this was by far my best experience.

PromaxBDA did the due diligence in speaking to all participants and paired people according to their goals, personalities, and backgrounds. Not only did we each have a detailed application form to fill out, but we were also interviewed by the executive board to ensure the right fit.

Little did Tricia know that her mentee would put her to work from day one! From the beginning, I went to Tricia for career advice, for guidance on how to navigate the world of corporate politics, and for suggestions on how to best showcase my skillset. In return, Tricia always offered up much more than I requested. She provided exposure among her vast networks; she was timely in her responses to my constant questions which were probably much more frequent than she expected; and, she was an outlet to ask for honest feedback where I didn’t feel the need to sugarcoat any of my concerns. I knew she respected me and that I was in a judgement-free zone. Although Tricia only signed up to be my mentor for one year, she will soon realize that she’s unofficially stuck with me until the day I retire.

My advice to my colleagues is to always be yourself. I understand that not everyone will hit it off in the same way that Tricia and I did, but there’s so much to gain from a mentorship. Be honest about your strengths, your passions, your experience gaps, and what you hope to achieve. Be proactive in reaching out to your mentor as you only get out what you put in. Be respectful of their time and appreciative of their support. It’s one of the few occasions where you can be completely candid without the fear of repercussions. Just keep in mind that “candid” does not mean “unprofessional.”

I truly hope everyone takes the opportunity to engage in this mentorship program as it could be the catalyst for something more meaningful and valuable while also affording you greater success in the next chapter of your career. And if you’re as fortunate as I was, you may also find a new friend in the process.

Patty Montagno is senior director marketing at A+E Networks. Tricia Melton is a former member of PromaxBDA’s board and also serves as marketing consultant to the organization.

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