Dear Mentor

Hi.  I’m Amanda. I know you’ve seen me in and out of these parts for a little over a year now, but here’s a formal introduction: I’m 22-years-old and I just graduated from college.  I’ve been fortunate to have three internships during my undergrad years.  My tenure at crowdSPRING has included working on PR, marketing, and mastering our co-founder Mike’s filing system.   This is the first of two blog posts reflecting on the mentor-mentee relationship and how both sides can gain insight and experience success.  

Dear Mentor,

First of all, thank you so much for this opportunity to work for you.  I’m sure you are incredibly accomplished and admirable and slightly intimidating in your success.  I am really hoping that I’m smart and savvy enough to keep up with you, and that we both can learn a lot from each other.The first, single most important thing I will tell you is: I’m terrified of failure.  Unlike you, I haven’t much experience with professional success OR professional failure.  I don’t know what it’s like to really mess something up. More importantly, I don’t know that if I fail at something and do mess up, it’ll probably be okay.  I have almost zero faith in my problem solving abilities. Frankly, I have almost zero faith in any of my skills.  If you ask me to do something and I seem hesitant, it’s not because I don’t want to or feel it’s beneath me, it’s because I am scared.  I feel like those who have worked professionally for a long time forget how terrifying those first few months,  or even years, of work can be. I am petrified that someday soon, I will be forced to move into my parent’s basement and cry about my student loan debt.  Don’t coddle or baby me or not ask me to do something difficult, just remember how frightening it can be.

Try to make it clear from the outset if and how you want input and ideas from me.  So many people talk about how great it is when young people offer their ideas and they should never be afraid to do so.  My experience has told me otherwise.  I may be coming from an internship that didn’t want my input.  I may be coming from a classroom whose professor is condescending and dismissive.  Do not assume that any one expectation you have is universal and does not need to be clarified.  There’s a really simple way to do this, too– just ask!  During a meeting, ask me directly for my thoughts and, soon enough, you won’t have to because I’ll know that is what you value.

Please try your hardest to respect my schedule, especially if you’re bringing me on as a student.  If I’m going to school full time or part time, it means I have class, homework, group work dates, meetings with my professors, meetings with professional organizations, and on campus activities on my plate.  Any student worth hiring will probably keep school as their number one priority– as it should be! Trust that my job with you is probably my second priority.  I may not be able to work late all the time; I may not be able to come in an extra day often.  It’s not because my work with you isn’t important, it’s honestly because I have an eight-page paper and a Photoshop layout due Thursday at noon and every minute of my day is scheduled to allow for this.  Let’s develop a mutual respect for one another’s busy lives.

I can handle criticism.  Generation Y gets a lot of flack for being whiny and sensitive to criticism.  For what it’s worth, most successful and smart people my age like getting constructive feedback about their work.  I would even say they are hungry for it.  If I have a bad idea or fail to meet your standards, let me know.  Don’t be a jerk, but also don’t feel like you have to give those sugary, self-esteem building euphemisms.  Most of us find them pretty condescending.

Finally, let me listen in on everything that you do.  Got a phone call?  Let me pick up the other line.  Have a meeting scheduled…can I sit in on it? I can learn so much from listening.  I can learn what questions need to be asked; I can learn how to phrase those questions.  I can learn how to gracefully say no; I can learn how to enthusiastically say yes.  I can probably learn a good joke or two. I really just want to learn everything about anything that you do.

Thank you, again, for this opportunity.  I hope we can both grow in this relationship, and if done right, stay in contact for years to come.


Your Mentee

Editor’s note: Amanda Warner, the author of this post, graduated last week from Columbia College Chicago, where she was Class Valedictorian. We’re trying to figure out how we can get her more hours over here at the crowdSPRING office…

Photo: 20th Century Fox