By Earl Pilkington
When we discover new and fresh talent, are we as radio professionals prepared to mentor, coach and guide them through their first few years in radio?
Here are 7 proven tips to help to make them, and hopefully our industry grow.
1. You don’t have to work in the exact same department, field, or industry to know what you are talking about.
It’s the passion that you have for the field that you work in that is all important. This value and desire to grow the industry is more significant. You both need to have it in buckets.
Media is the same world-wide. We all have deadlines, know our craft, and should be ‘good’ to ‘great’ at what we all do.
2. Determine goals.
What they want, and what they need are very important. You REALLY need to know what this is from the outset.
Do they want you to: Listen to air-checks; advise on scripts; build their repertoire, network or help to climb the corporate ladder? What do THEY have in mind for this relationship?
Ask them to prepare some questions before you meet each time. A set of 5 questions is best because it can become too overwhelming for the both of you if there is too much to discuss. Gently guide them with their goals in mind so they can move them forward to the next issue.
3. Reach an agreement.
Agree first and foremost that you are there to help them professionally (even though personal stuff always creeps in). Any advice you give is just that… advice. What they do with it is up to them.
The length of mentorship is next. Generally 3 months is a good starting point, and you can agree to extend it from there.
The amount of time you are prepared to make available should be considered by both parties. I have played loosely with this in the past, and it has backfired on me, so I know to set clear limits as to what, when and how much I can do for them.
4. Be open, honest and get feedback!
You can’t offer to help someone with their own goals if you don’t know yours. Short term; long term; what are yours and theirs?
Ask them often, “How am I doing? Is this advice working for you?” You may discover that it is out-dated and you may need to upskill yourself. Can they teach you to improve your skill set?
And DON’T EVER ask a mentee to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. EVER!
5. Prepare for problems.
Professionally and personally, problems will crop up. You need to know how to defuse the situation, or smooth it over. I cannot stress this enough. It is NOT going to be a perfect relationship.
From ups and downs, to times of availability, you have to both remember that this is a relationship that you are BOTH investing time and effort into. Focus and be prepared to let it go if you have to.
6. Discover what you are both good at.
It’s not a race to discover it, but eventually you will find in your mentee something that really shines, what they are passionate about. You will see that passion and hear it in the way they talk. If it’s for this fantastic career, well done! Work with it!
7. Plan ahead and move on.
As soon as you start to mentor someone, suggest to them that they should mentor someone else at the same time. It helps them to understand what you are going through, and teaches the skills too. If your time together (as per your agreement) is only short term, then you need to spur them on to grow and pass the torch to the next person.
The American Psychology Association (link here) has produced a guide for mentors and mentees that is well worth the read if you are interested in becoming a mentor. This guide shows that mentors and their mentees are more satisfied and committed to their individual professions than non-mentored individuals.
You don’t need to be a manager. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be a mentor. Like me, you just might fall into it. I have found colleagues and peers will accept what you are saying a lot easier if they know you are coming from a professional place, rather than a managerial decree.
Finally: You may find that you are good at this mentorship thing. If you are, keep on doing it. Stretch yourself and others, and keep in contact with them via social media, and watch them and the industry grow.
Earl Pilkington works as a copywriter for West Coast Radio in Western Australia. He has mentored on-air talent, audio producers, journos and others inside and outside the industry, including TV, newspaper, voice talent and students. Earl welcomes your correspondence at