Never have I realized the importance of networking and making meaningful connections and relationships with people than when I decided to expand my brand and form my business, Think Young Media Group, LLC. Before I even knew the name of my business, incorporated myself or built a website, I leaned on acquaintances, both weak and strong, friends, family and colleagues for advice on securing potential clients, marketing, and the like. During this period, a generous network was a godsend and I began to think about asking some of these people to be my mentor. I’ve read a copious amount of material on mentorship that went into detail on the dos and don’ts of a good mentoring relationship, how to make the ask, setting realistic expectations and so on.
As I began to think about who I would ask and, if he or she agreed, what I imagined the parameters of our relationship would be, I began to think of people who were already inspiring me in my quest for professional success. The Queen of all Media, Oprah Winfrey, has always been a personal and professional example to me particularly because she began as a journalist and parlayed her success into a billion dollar global platform. Others who I admire — Ursula Burns, Richard Branson, Warren Buffett — had always been “mentors” of a sort in the sense that although I’d never met them, I often leaned on their examples and personal journeys in order to inform my own. I call them “virtual mentors.” Another one of those people is Melinda Emerson or Small Biz Lady. She successfully transitioned from corporate American to entrepreneurship, creating a public profile under the premise that she helps small business owners avoid failure. This interview is a recent one where she talks about her journey to professional success. I think its these examples that can also create a form of mentorship. I’ve learned the importance of identifying both actual and “virtual” mentors, leveraging their knowledge, and pulling from it tools specific to your journey that will provide value to your professional path.