Written by Steve Blakeman (previously published on Forbes)
Steve Blackman is the Managing Director of Global Accounts for OMD based in London and Paris and LinkedIn top 10 marketing and social writer for two consecutive years
This past year, I noticed that my weekly posts on LinkedIn had acquired a regular new reader and follower – Victor Colorado. How did I spot this? Well, with his regular interactions and smart accompanying comments, it was kind of difficult not to notice.
Victor is an impressive young man with some big dreams. He wants someone to help him achieve his ambitions, and after actively following my writing for some time, he reached out to me. And I’m rather glad he did because I believe the experience is proving to be even more rewarding for me than it is for him.
Victor is from Mexico but wants to travel the world. His primary destination is the United Kingdom, partly to improve his English (although it’s already pretty good if you ask me) and partly to gain valuable experience in his chosen profession of engineering.
So where did I come into the picture? A keen writer who wants to improve his literary skills, Victor asked me if I would read the first article he had written and if I would share any constructive comments. (Some of his English and phrasing needed tightening up, but other than that, it was quite promising.) I am often inundated with approaches from people mainly asking me to use their services or demanding a free copy of my book. To be honest, I’ve become a little weary of those requests. But Victor wasn’t chasing a commercial transaction; he merely wanted me to impart some of the tips that I had learned throughout my career.
As a mentor to him, I’m determined that I won’t write anything for Victor, as that wouldn’t do him any favors in the long run. He needs to do this for himself, accepts this willingly and is reveling in the process. And frankly, so am I.
From my perspective, being a mentor has been a joy and I have discovered three reasons why I’m finding the experience so uplifting:
It feels good to give something back.
I have worked in the advertising industry for 30 years and I’ve invested every ounce of juice into my career. I’ve sacrificed certain aspects of my life but equally reaped the rewards. To be honestly introspective, I’ve never really put that much back into society; that’s hard to admit but it’s true. With this mentorship opportunity, I’m working to change that.
I wish I’d had someone to guide me.
I don’t recall anyone helping me decide what I wanted to do with my life. I would have relished that opportunity and I believe a more structured mentoring program from a younger age would have reaped its own rewards. Taking it back to my generation, if I were the “Karate Kid” intern being mentored by a corporate “Mr. Miyagi,” that could have been instrumental in shaping my career.
I’m learning a lot from Victor about passion.
His enthusiasm is infectious and it makes me remember when I had that same burning desire as a 21-year-old and the pure unadulterated excitement of embarking on my career. I’m now feeding off that reflected glow which is, in turn, reinvigorating me.
Bringing the story up to date, I recently took a business trip to Mexico City – talk about serendipity. I sent a note to Victor and we agreed to meet up. Now, my geography of Mexico is somewhat lacking and I wasn’t aware how far it was from his hometown in Tabasco to Mexico City. I later learned that he took a 500-mile, 10-hour overnight bus trip each way to make our meeting. That’s what I call commitment.
We talked for over two hours about how he believes writing can help him achieve his aspirations. He spoke excitedly about how inspired he was by Tai Tran, who at just 23 years old is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, LinkedIn Top Voice and TEDx speaker. He wants to emulate what Tai has achieved and, as a role model, he couldn’t have chosen better.
Given that Tai was such an inspiration to Victor, I asked him about his own personal reflections on how mentors have influenced his own journey: “It’s incredibly surreal to hear that my story is inspiring other young leaders like Victor. I started this journey with a passion for marketing and helping others. I credit some of this success to my mentors from the likes of Forbes, LinkedIn and Apple.”
Tai went on to offer some sage counsel to other fledgling executives: “Ask for advice, not favors. Likewise, learn to give as much as you take by mentoring others and continuing the cycle of paying it forward.”
I finally asked Victor the question which had been on my mind: What do you want to attain in life? Fame? Fortune? His answer was disarmingly sincere: “I want to launch a business in my hometown so that I can put something back into the community that has helped me become the person I am today.”
As I mentioned, I don’t feel that I’ve put enough back into society but Victor made me realize that it isn’t too late. My epiphany reflects just how rewarding mentorship can be for both parties and I’ve been accepting more opportunities to pass on my guidance to eager young professionals. I have a feeling that Victor will carve out a successful career for himself without the necessity for something as random as luck. Without question, his tenacity, endeavor and zeal will almost certainly ensure that he achieves everything he has ever dreamed of and, at the same time, he’s helped teach an old dog like me some valuable new tricks.