Mentorship is a two-way street.

I thought I knew what a mentor was. If you know me, you’ve heard me gush about the high school teachers and dance instructors who challenged me creatively and changed my life for the better. Throughout my college experience, I’ve had my eyes peeled for people who would do the same in this stage of my life. I’ve wanted to find someone to consistently remind me that I’m on the right track and to tell me the next steps to take.

I haven’t found that kind of mentorship. And oddly, I haven’t needed it. Listening to Natalie Kim this weekend helped me understand why.

Natalie has ten years of experience in advertising strategy (most recently as the Strategy Director at Firstborn), and her newest project, called We Are Next, focuses on sharing that experience. We Are Next is a weekly newsletter and podcast designed to fill the gap of “practical and emotional mentorship” for young people in the advertising industry.

It suffices to say, then, that Natalie is an expert on mentorship and advice. She is passionate about helping others grow and enjoy their professional experiences. (If you haven’t read her Email from Me to You, you should.) One piece of advice she shared with us really resonated with me. Though they apply to life in general, these words also shifted my perspective on professional mentorship:

Keep doing what you think is right until someone tells you that it’s not.

Mentorship is not a perpetual pat on the back. It isn’t a road map up the ladder of an agency. It’s not best-friendship with your boss or a real-life Yoda teaching you how to be an adult.

As Natalie pointed out to our class, mentorship is a two-way street. As a young professional, it is my job to do my part and follow my gut. A mentor is there to help when that doesn’t work out, or it isn’t quite enough.

As I seek mentors, I need to reach out to specific people who inspire me, speak up to ask for feedback, and work to exceed their expectations. This quote reminds me that though mentorship helps to build confidence, it also requires a measure of confidence to be truly rewarding.

My notes from Natalie’s presentation.

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