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Lucy Payette

January Is Mentoring Month: How Are We Doing?

Illustration of three people on different sizes of blocks. Each reaches back to help the next up another level
Illustration of three people on different sizes of blocks. Each reaches back to help the next up another level
Copyright: surfupvector

In a nod to mentoring month, a movement formally recognized in the U.S. and gaining traction in Canada, let’s reflect on mentoring in the editing industry. Much has been written about mentoring in The Editors’ Weekly over the years, including the most recent post by Jennifer D. Foster on the benefits of mentorship, stories of different mentoring styles by Rosemary Shipton, and Trish Morgan’s experience with the Editors Canada John Eerkes-Medrano Mentorship Program.

Mentoring might stir up distant memories of face-to-face meetings between senior-level employees and new hires to review edits to manuscripts or casual conversations over coffee. Past mentorships may have involved in-person previews of creative works such as a music performance or a documentary film. There’s a critical scene, for example, in the 2021 film Tick, Tick… Boom! where the character of Stephen Sondheim makes an appearance at Jonathan Larson’s musical theatre workshop and provides verbal support to the young artist. Sondheim, we learn, had considerable influence on Larson’s short-lived career.

The events of the past few years, however, suggest that meaningful mentorships need to evolve to address inclusivity, career stages, age and isolation.

Reverse mentorship

One of the more forward-thinking advancements in mentorship has been the development of “reverse mentorship,” a practice that sets up a junior team member, often a member of an underrepresented group, to mentor senior staff on technology, diversity and inclusivity. Executive coach and personal development advocate Patrice Gordon developed a successful reverse mentorship program for Virgin Mobile and gave a TED Talk about it in 2020.

Age and mentorship

In a similar vein, a Psychology Today article from last summer, “Are You Too Old to Have a Mentor?” replaces the traditional concept of a mentor relationship — a “one-way street moving hierarchically” — with “lateral mentoring,” where the mentee receives guidance from an expert in a certain field.

Second and third careers suggest we need to redefine the mentor/mentee relationship: even though we have years of experience, we can still benefit from having a mentor. A mentor may be younger than us, we might have more than one mentor at any given time, or be a mentor to more than one person.

Imposter syndrome

Another development in mentorship of late is the discussion about imposter syndrome (doubting your capabilities and feeling like a fraud), particularly as it applies to women. A revealing 2021 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome,” calls for a markedly different approach in how we view and mentor women. The authors, Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey, are interviewed about their experiences in this Brené Brown podcast, and it’s worth a listen.

The unmentored

Sometimes, mentorship in the workplace is non-existent or hard to come by, as journalist Katie Couric laments in her interview with Kara Swisher to promote Couric’s new memoir, Going There. In the podcast, Couric explains the culture of competitiveness and ageism that prevented one woman from mentoring another lest they lose their job.

Remote work mentoring

And what of mentoring during periods of isolation? The Toronto Star reported last fall that employees were receiving fewer opportunities for mentorship while working remotely but that mentorship programs are needed now more than ever. In addition to the personal benefits related to professional growth, mentorships help to retain and engage employees, improve productivity and preserve our sense of humanity — especially during a time of crisis.

How have mentorships served or not served you lately? What themes would you be most likely to talk about? What do you look for in a mentor/mentee relationship? Let us know or consider writing a post about your mentorship experience.

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Previous post from Lucy Payette: Searching for the Positive Side of Change

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About the author

Lucy Payette

Lucy Payette is a Senior Technical Editor at StandardAero in Winnipeg. She has worked for more than 20 years in corporate and digital communications for companies based in Toronto and Montreal.

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