What I have learned in 4 months of piloting a mentoring program for the whole marketing industry

For the past 4 months, we have been piloting an industry based mentoring scheme for Australian marketing. When I say marketing, I mean this in the broadest sense of the term. It is marketing, media, advertising, ad tech and mar tech, design and every other related discipline.


Because while there are many mentoring schemes, most are relatively narrow in their focus. There are company schemes, organisational schemes, schemes based on gender and profession and more. But marketing is a broad church. And a church where the congregation can move back and forward across the many and varied disciplines. One of our clients started their career in media sales, moved to advertising, across to the client-side in CRM and direct response (heavily tech-driven) and now is a CMO for a major retailer.

If marketing allows people to transition across a variety of disciplines, then a mentoring scheme should provide the same opportunity and the same breadth. The TrinityP3 Mentoring Program has marketers, agency people, designers, media people, journalists and procurement people. The pilot kicked off in May and ran until September when we will collectively decide the way forward. But all the signs are positive that the program will expand.

But rather selfishly, rather than talk about the program, I want to share what I have learned from participating in this process as both a mentor and a mentee. Yes, you can be both in this program and I think that is really valuable.

There is a big difference between coaching and mentoring

Coaching, career coaching, executive coaching, and the like is all the rage. Simply do a search on LinkedIn for coaches and you will find how many qualified coaches are available. But coaching and mentoring are quite different.

Don’t get me wrong. If you want a coach, then go and find a coach. Likewise, if you are a coach, do not join a mentoring scheme to coach people.

Mentoring for me is simply making the time and the head-space to have a conversation with someone to share your experiences, knowledge and advice on the topics they are interested in. Either because they are facing similar challenges or simply looking for an experienced perspective.

What I have learned is that getting the two confused leads to problems. The coaching relationship and the mentoring relationship are very different. To start coaching in a mentoring program may seem like adding value, but it is more likely to lead to confusion and issues. Leave your professional coaching skills at the door when you join in a mentoring program.

Having a mentor is such a privilege

Many people were surprised when I announced I had a mentor through the program. Because of my age and experience they had assumed I would be a mentor. Which I am also. But at what age do you have to stop learning? That is what participation in a mentoring program is. It is having a growth mindset.

Likewise, when we talked about attracting more mentees to the program, most people started talking about students. The idea being that a mentee was someone just about to start their career. Or new to the industry. But in fact, mentors can be any age.

My mentor and I are about the same age but have very different experiences. He had managed major food manufacturing companies and had senior corporate roles. It is such a privilege to have that time either once a week, or every other week, to talk. I share challenges and issues I am facing, and he provides advice, shares experience and provides me with an invaluable alternative perspective. There is not a meeting where I do not leave feeling inspired, challenged or excited.

Being a mentor is so rewarding

As I said, I am also a mentor. In fact, a mentor three different people. Three lots of experience. Three alternative perspectives. Three interesting situations. The meetings vary from a fortnightly Google meet for an hour, to a weekly 30-minute phone call, to a one-hour coffee once a month.

They each set an agenda for what they wanted from our meetings. Each time they come prepared with questions and expectations and an open and inquisitive mind. We talk, we listen, we laugh, and we share our experiences and perspectives.

But for me, the most valuable thing in this process is that almost every time they cause me to remember, recall and then often rethink the experiences, attitudes and assumptions I have developed over the years about how and why things worked, or did not work, the way they did.

Even when I have an incredibly busy week, and I may think I would love to reschedule one of these meetings, I never regret making the time to mentor. Every meeting with my mentees is energising and stimulating. I often find myself reflecting on the conversation for days after. And very often the discussion stimulates another article or blog post.

You do get back more than you put in

I know this feels like a line from one of those inspiration memes, but it is true. The pilot has been a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding. We have 150 people. Almost equal numbers are mentors, mentees or, like me, both mentors and mentees. But it has been time well invested. I particularly like the feedback from the participants who will randomly thank me for organising the program.

The next step is to extend and expand the program. But to do this in a way that is scalable and sustainable. The pilot has proven there is definitely a need and a desire for a marketing industry mentoring program. But we need more people in the broader marketing industry to want to get on board. To be either a Mentor. Mentee. Or Both.

If that is you, we would love to have you join us. The new, expanded program will commence in October 2020.

Simply register your interest here