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The Importance of Finding Mentorship in the Advertising Industry

People rarely achieve career success in a vacuum. Throughout our long and labyrinthian journeys, we encounter colleagues, managers, executives, and—for those of us lucky enough—advisors and mentors who provide us with valuable external perspectives and open avenues to greater business pursuits.

At their best, meaningful mentoring relationships in the advertising industry are a two-way street. They represent opportunities for the mentee to expand their professional network and develop social capital while simultaneously helping the mentor keep the pulse of the perpetually changing trends that characterize the advertising landscape. Navigating the AdTech industry can be overwhelming and complex, and tapping into as many outlets as possible is a great way to do so more effectively.

With employees the world over coming up on two years of working from home, there may be a sense these once commonplace, all-too-critical career-building moments in the workplace are a thing of the past. In a workplace ecosystem where the majority of our interactions take place in Slack channels or formal Zoom meetings, it can feel increasingly difficult to gain access to senior leaders, have spontaneous conversations with a peer, or simply squeeze in time to seek out advice. This has left many employees—especially those earlier in their careers—afraid of being isolated or left behind in the career stakes.

By prioritizing mentorship, companies can effectively (and productively) fill the ongoing connectivity and community void that currently exists both within, and beyond, the walls of AdTech.

Surrounding Yourself with Diversity

Building a personal advisory board can be integral to career growth, particularly for those at the outset of their working lives or in mid-level roles. By engaging in conversations and developing relationships with experts, young professionals can garner fresh ideas, develop reputational currency, and ultimately build for their future.

In our latest AdTech Unfiltered podcast, long-time mentor and thought leader Matt Barash speaks on this subject at great length. “I think it’s really important to look to a variety of different people and surround yourself with diversity to be able to become smarter and better at what you do,” he says. “There’s a big, growing AdTech ecosystem, (and) if you’re curious, and if you’re entrepreneurial, and if you’re willing to assume a little bit of risk, then there’s incredible reward to be found.”

Finding a great mentor is, of course, not always a straightforward undertaking. It takes time and commitment on the part of the mentee. Matt recommends starting simple and going to someone who’s already well-positioned to offer pertinent advice. “I say look at your manager first. If you’re bought into your manager and your manager is bought into you, that’s the first step toward success. Odds are that they’re a little bit more senior, they’re a little bit more experienced. And so perhaps they can impart some words of wisdom to help you be better at what you’re doing in your core competency, in your core role.”

Looking for a mentor inside your organization comes with other benefits, too—it is a move that can foster long-term friendships, trustworthiness, and mutual respect among colleagues that can contribute to a healthy and inclusive culture in the workplace. Meanwhile, from the company’s perspective, endorsing and facilitating opportunities for employee-management mentorship can help in nurturing and developing a cohort of future business leaders from within.

However, this is just but one option available to professionals who are seeking guidance. Mentors don’t inherently have to share the same corporate circles as their mentees. Sometimes, having someone look at things from an entirely unrelated perspective can help provide an additional layer of clarity. “Get out and go to networking events if you can,” Matt says. “Get to know people. Have a cup of coffee with someone. Don’t be shy. Ask people for their time. You’ll be surprised—people will give it back.”

The Importance of Self Evaluation

The term “mentoring” itself carries different connotations for different people, so setting clear expectations is essential to the success of any mentee-mentor relationship. To Matt, that process starts with the mentee asking themselves some honest questions and clearly establishing their personal and career goals. “Where are you today? What are the things that you need to focus on? What are the areas you need to shore up and invest in to be better to get to where you level up? Having a good sense of where your curiosity is, of where your strengths are, of where you feel you have vulnerabilities, will help you to recognize how to best frame the conversation.”

Matt also stresses that mentoring doesn’t necessarily have to be about the big picture. “It’s really important to have conversations where you also look for the best practices in terms of the tactical part of your day-to-day to ensure that you’re handling things properly and you’re well-positioned. Conversations can range from having a strategic conversation around something that might be a multi-hundred-million-dollar M&A discussion to something as simple as, ‘Should I keep Slack notifications on at night?’”

Finding Connection in a Disconnected Age

The rapid shift to remote working has reshaped many aspects of business life, not least of which is how accustomed we’ve become to communicating with each other through digital forums. While it may feel somewhat paradoxical, in many ways, that virtual inter-connectivity makes this a perfect environment for pursuing mentorship.

“Saying ‘What if?’ is my biggest fear,” Matt says. “I never want to say, ‘What if?’ I want to say, ‘How do I have as many options as possible? How do I have as much understanding as possible?’” Mentorship is an effective way to attack those questions and unlock doors that would otherwise remain closed.

To hear more insights from Matt Barash, check out his conversation with Basis Technologies’ VP of Media Innovations and Technology, Noor Naseer. Matt describes how he became a mentor himself, talks about the tough side of being a mentor, and details the importance of thinking about your career development from a macro perspective.

Listen to the Podcast