For those of you who didn’t already know it, Girls Who Print has partnered with the Printing Industries of America to launch the Women’s Print Mentoring Network. This is exciting to us at GWP because we know how needed a mentorship program is, and we have the best partner imaginable in such a robust organization like the PIA.
We know that the we are at a critical point in our industry: we know that we need to attract more women to the graphic arts, and we know that we need to make a compelling case to younger generations that print is a viable and desirable place to invest in as a career. So we are putting our money where our mouth is and ensuring that if you decide to embark on a career in the graphic arts, there will be a network of professional, experienced and committed women to lift you up and help you succeed.
So what does it take to be a mentor? Do you have what it takes? Here, in no particular order, are a few critical elements to being a great mentor:
- Be willing to share and talk about your feelings – so much of the power and value that you will bring to any mentor/mentee relationship will entail telling your stories. Your stories and your past in many cases will be extremely important to your mentee. Mistakes, you’ve made them, and your mentee will too, but imagine that thread running through your head that goes, “If I knew then what I know now!” and imagine how precious those lessons will be to hand down.
- Be able to nurture – Much of the research that I did for this piece likens mentors to “mother” figures, and that makes a lot of sense to me. Mentees are looking for advice, but they are also looking for someone to tell them that it’s all going to be OK in the end. I view those that I mentored as, if not my children, then at least a beloved niece. I care deeply for those I mentor and I am invested in seeing good things happen to them and seeing them produce good work and careers we can all be proud of.
- Tell the truth – Even when it hurts. Even when it’s hard. Honesty and frankness are a gift to give to those that you mentor. Which is not to say you can’t do that with kindness, love and respect. But sometimes a little tough love is called for, and as long as you are coming from a place of growth and development, being blunt is OK.
- Give it away – Being a mentor requires a generosity that is not present in some other professional or even personal relationships. The reward you get for being a mentor is the relationship itself, and the gratification of seeing the accomplishments of someone else. Again, it requires a generosity of spirit, and even requires you to put your own ego in check. What if your mentee goes on to achieve greatness that eclipses even your own bright shining star? The ability to celebrate that and accept that possibility are mandatory for being a great mentor.
- Be willing to grow and change – Being a mentor will change you. You will undoubtedly learn from the experience, and be enriched by it. So relax and let the transformation for everyone, begin.
Whether you’ve been a mentor before, whether formally or informally, maybe now is the time for you to join our network and commit to helping the next generation of girls who print to succeed. We may have come a long way, but until we see true equality in the C-Suite at ALL levels in the graphic arts, we are not there yet. You can help us (and them) get there.