The Creativity of Connecting People

This is my third post on “creativity” in as many weeks. Why? I’ve been assigned to make a creative journal entry as part of my last class (The Creative Process) in my MBA program at the University of St. Thomas. Yes, my last class. And, yes, there is really a class called “The Creative Process.” I have had the luxury of dipping in to the Master of Business Communications program to take electives. This is one I could not pass up. We’ve discussed the different ways people express their creativity, different methodologies to keep creativity on track and next week we’ll be discussing our own personal brands. The fact that I am able to take a class on creativity as an MBA student and have it count towards graduation is a good example of why I decided to go to grad school at St. Thomas. Their curriculum does a nice job of balancing business rigor, creativity, entrepreneurship and ethics. If you’re thinking about getting your MBA, keep St. Thomas in mind. 

But this isn’t a sponsored post brought to you by the University of St. Thomas. My third post on creativity is about the creativity of connecting people. As marketers, we’re constantly trying to figure out the best way to connect people and brands. Getting people to do, or buy, something. This might be accomplished through traditional advertising channels such as broadcast, print or radio. Social media might be another way to accomplish our goals as marketers. Social media surfaces the additional element of connecting people to people. It’s the people to people aspect of connectivity I’d like to focus on for this post. More specifically, connecting people to people in the form of mentorship and career guidance.

Personally, I love connecting people to people. I'm passionate about offering any help I can to get people their deserved chance. Which is why I recently volunteered to be the Director of Mentorship for the Advertising Federation of Minnesota (Ad Fed MN). Our first mentorship event is coming up on Wednesday, October 27th at Spill the Wine in Minneapolis. Cost is minimal and I encourage you to attend. The lineup of confirmed mentors is reason enough to take two hours of your way to find inspiration and learn from marketing professionals who are making a difference in the Twin Cities community. I know, I know. Sorry for dropping a contextual Ad Fed MN promotion on you. Hey, at least it was contextual.

Before I continue, I want to offer some explanation around the word “mentorship.” I don’t mean mentorship in an overly formal sense. Mentorship can manifest itself in many different ways; a quick chat over coffee, a regularly scheduled monthly lunch, a daily exchange of e-mails, back-and-forth commentary on blogs, a few @replies on twitter or going out of your way to connect with someone at an industry event or conference. It’s the quality of interactions that foster good mentor / mentor relationships in today’s world, not the quantity or formality. There are many creative ways for mentees to engage potential mentors and vice versa. But before exploring the different ways people can go about this, let’s get a better understanding about what both mentees and mentors expect about of mentorships.

Mentees

I recently posted a tweet asking people what they think makes up a successful mentorship.

I received quite a few responses. Below are a few examples from a mentee's perspective in terms of what they expect out of a successful mentorship.

Common themes among the responses I received included timeliness, open communication, encouragement, trustworthiness, reliability, good listening skills, well connected, diverse experience and background, a willingness to help and  – of course – good advice.

Mentors

While I received numerous responses to my initial post on Twitter about the successful ingredients to a successful mentorship from a mentee’s perspective, I didn’t receive much feedback from a mentor’s perspective. But, I hope to shed some light on this as a mentor to a several people I’ve really enjoyed building relationships with over the past several years.

As a mentor, I stay connected to those I respect and admire in business. Not only does this benefit my personal network of connections, but it also puts me in a good position to help others through those I know. I view my connections as an extension of my mentee’s connections and do my best to make personal introductions.

As a mentor, I feel obligated to at least monitor the success of a mentee once we’ve met in person. And I use the term “mentee” somewhat loosely here. Someone may contact me via Twitter and ask for coffee. I’ll usually take people up on their request. Once we’ve connected in person, I do my best to keep an eye on what happens with that person moving forward. Social media, especially Twitter, makes it easier than ever for mentors to continue engaging with mentees on a regular basis.

As a mentor, I get just as much out of meeting with a mentee as they get out of meeting with me. Probably more. After each interaction with a mentee, I feel a sense of fulfillment, hoping that whatever I’ve said or written has a positive impact on that person’s career moving forward. Seth Godin’s philosophy outlined in Linchpin gets to the bottom of what I like most about being a mentor. Giving a gift to someone without expecting anything in return is true art. It’s fulfilling to know my gift may inspire a person to make the most of their career at that point in their life. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to do it over an extended period of time and watch them grow from recent graduate to Chief Marketing Officer.

The Creativity of Connecting People

Now that I’ve shared what I believe to be the common ingredients to a successful mentorship, let’s get back to a point I made earlier. There are many creative ways for mentees to engage potential mentors and vice versa. Start by breaking down the formalities and stereotypes of what you think a mentorship should be. Mentees feel overwhelmed and intimidated by trying to find the perfect mentor. Mentors feel like committing to a being a mentor means a significant time investment on their part they might not be able to afford. Rather than trying to formalize the ideal mentorship structure, focus on building relationships with mentors organically. Find their blog and find them on Twitter. Send them a message. Respond to a post. Incorporate their thoughts into your blog and tweets. Encourage them to respond. Go to events where people you look up to in the industry are going to be. Make your way to shaking their hand and giving them your business card. These interactions will pay off over time and people will end up agreeing to meet with you if you’re professional and respectful.

Go ahead. Ask for that meeting. Find unique ways to connect with people. I've shared my thoughts on the creativity of connecting people. I'm very curious to hear yours. What do you think makes up a successful mentorship? What are some of the creatives ways you've connected with people?