What’s the best way to pass skills, experience and business smarts from one person to another? Mentoring tops the list. We humans have always known the value of one-on-one instruction: parents teach their trade or profession to their children, apprentices work for years with their masters and young hires look for an old hand in the company to guide them.
There are many different kinds of mentoring:
- Speed mentoring has been popular at conferences for several years. These sessions work best if the mentee arrives with specific questions that the mentor can handle in 15 minutes or less.
- Many professional associations, including Editors Canada, offer mentoring to their members. To protect mentors and mentees from feeling exploited or short-changed, these mentorships are carefully described in scope and duration. They might cover estimating, transitioning from in-house to freelance work or moving from one specialty to another.
- The gold standard in hands-on editing is shadow editing — where the mentee edits the same manuscripts as the mentor for a set period and receives feedback on their work.
A few years ago, I was asked by a university researcher to participate in a study of editorial training. My role was to mentor a student who had received a high grade in my recent class. Over the next semester, the mentee edited three projects I was working on — a novel that needed heavy reorganization, a non-fiction text written by a journalist unaccustomed to book form and an article for a scholarly journal. I cleared with the publishers and the authors that the student could observe the process ahead. As the only editor for these projects, I was responsible for the substantive, stylistic and copy editing.
Once a week the mentee emailed me her work and later came for an hour to discuss her edits or her comments with me. When I made appointments with the journalist, the mentee came too. I sent her copies of my emails with the other two out-of-town authors. I showed her how to estimate and run a small business, and how to deal with the staff in the various publishing houses.
The mentee already had a solid foundation from the class, but as she gained confidence, her editing became more innovative and accomplished. When she suggested some particularly pleasing phrases, she let me include them in my edit. As we concluded the mentorship, she told me that she would always feel that these texts were “her” books and article too.
Soon after we sent our reports and our sample materials to the researcher, the mentee launched her own freelance business. I was not surprised that she quickly built up a solid client base with both trade and scholarly publishers. Knowing I could trust her work implicitly, I have often recommended her — and we’ve collaborated on many large projects, too. For both of us, that mentorship became an enjoyable and productive win-win situation.
Have you been mentored or shared your experience with another editor? We would love to hear your stories.
Previous post from Rosemary Shipton: How to Become an Editor.
The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.