OPINION: Momma knows best

Sarah Williams
By Sarah Williams | 12 December 2012
Sarah Williams, producer at William's Production

It can be good to be thrown in at the deep end at some stage in our careers – to flounder and panic a bit before realising that we are more than capable of dealing with the task in hand. But to go through your first few years of work feeling dazed, confused and used isn’t going to get you far.

Do our fresh hopefuls coming through really get the day-to-day advice that they need to help them progress? How about the bigger picture: how do you know if you’re in the right department, or even the right industry? And what about people skills? The latter can come with time and experience, of course, but wouldn’t it all come a lot more quickly if someone could be there to advise you?

It’s an over-simplification to say that grads just need the experience, that it’s good for both parties to get them in, working for you for next-to-nothing. Real experience is born out of guidance, not out of simply ‘putting in the hours’. Surely there needs to be more support, a halfway house.

That’s where mentors come in. The nearest mentors I had were my parents and, as great as they were at advising and helping me through the early years of my advertising career, neither had worked in an ad agency before.

I could have really done with someone in the industry who I could bounce ideas off and advise on my next career move. Maybe if I had this, I might have got where I wanted to be sooner. Or, at least, with fewer bumps along the way.

At SheSays, we recognise the importance of mentorship, that’s why we offer help and advice through our program, ‘Who’s Your Momma’.  It’s an informal set up, where we simply introduce two women. The mentors offer advice, support and discuss issues their ‘mentee’ is having. It’s a huge benefit to most women to be able to talk freely about their concerns, without the worry of compromising their perception in the office.

One of our mentors, Jane Evans, founder of Giant Leap tells of her experience, “When I was a young art director there were only two female creative directors in London.

"I was fortunate enough to work for one and the other is still my mentor to this day. Thirty years later it seems the only way to get female creative directors is to grow them, one by one, under an experienced hand.”

So far we’ve paired up over 60 women and have plans to broaden our network and support more women.

The benefits of having a mentor are numerous. Simply having another team member who’s been around a bit longer and who can guide you through the rough patches should have a positive effect on any career.

Kara Jenkins, creative director at Visual Jazz Isobar is one who has benefited from what mentoring can do. She said: “To me mentoring is all about wanting to give to others what you were so lucky to receive yourself. I have been fortunate enough to have several mentors over my career, some of which I don't think even realised they were just that.

"There's nothing more positive then to help someone along their career path and see them do well – it's more rewarding than any industry award or accolade."

A mentor can be worth their weight in Cannes Lions. They can also be a foot into a broader industry network. Not only will they have a wealth of experience, they’ll also have years’ worth of contacts in their little black book. And, for the mentor, it’s a great way to talent spot.

We put so much emphasis and support in AWARD School and the Communications Council program. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the momentum going throughout the careers of our future stars.

If you would like to be a part of our Who’s Your Momma program, please get in touch – yourmomma.sydney@gmail.com We’d love have you as part of our ever growing team.

Sarah Williams
William's Production

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