4 Ways to Be #RelationshipGoals with a Mentor

– This post was written by Natalie Kim, founder of We Are Next


Mentors are the fairy godmothers of your career. They encourage you when things feel hopeless, connect you with useful knowledge, people and opportunities, and get you to the ball (or your next job).

But unlike Cinderella, you have to earn your mentor’s magic. Whether your mentor is your boss, someone you cold emailed (bravo!) or the judge you connected with after winning Young Shits, here are four ways to get the most out of the relationship.

1) At the beginning make it less about you and more about them

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Let’s say you’ve identified a potential godmother and want to ask them to be your mentor. Make it less about what you need and more about that person. Be genuinely curious and thoughtful in who you reach out to. Internet-stalk them and find the reason(s) you want to connect with that specific person. Then kick off the relationship by asking about their career path or what their current role entails.

Most folks in the industry love talking about themselves (though we may not admit it or put ourselves out there). They’ll be much more willing to take that meeting or phone call vs. if you open with what you need from them. Once you’ve established a connection, there will be plenty of time to ask for their help.


2) Move beyond advertising

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Talking about advertising only scratches the surface level of a mentor relationship. To build a stronger, more lasting bond, get to know each other as full people. What does your mentor do outside of work? What did they think of the latest season of GoT? What’s their philosophy on life? How’s their mom?

The best mentorship happens when there’s emotional investment between the mentor and mentee. And that only comes from baring other parts of yourself. (Not literally baring parts. Don’t do that.)


3) Mentor the mentor



We look up to our mentors, but they put their pants (or bra) on the same way you do. We’re all just people looking to learn so we can be more awesome at our jobs (and life, because see #2). To keep the relationship from feeling one-sided (i.e. you constantly take-take-taking), think about what you’re bringing to it as a mentee.

Maybe it’s your perspective as a young’in. Or an article you think they’d find interesting. Or the password to the newest speakeasy you can only access through a manhole cover. Whatever it is, try to bring value to their lives on a consistent basis—not just when you need something.


4) Let them celebrate your success



Imagine you put time and effort towards something, but never saw any progress. You wouldn’t keep doing whatever you’re doing, and you’d stop caring about it, fast.

When something great happens in your career—you helped win a big pitch, overcame your fear of speaking up, or landed that dream gig—tell your mentor about it. More importantly, show how their input has helped you get there. The positive feedback will give your mentor warm fuzzies, and encourage them to keep investing in you.

Your future mentors are out there waiting to help you along in your career. And for added guidance, We Are Next gathers advice and insight from all over the industry. It’s like having hundreds of mentors. Sort of.

You got this.



Natalie Kim is the founder of We Are Next, a resource that helps students and junior talent begin their advertising and marketing careers with confidence. She’s spent 10 years in advertising, most recently as Director of Strategy at Firstborn in New York City, and has partnered with clients such as L’Oreal, HBO, Coca-Cola and Bacardi. She’s been recognized on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in Marketing & Advertising and was awarded the GenNext Award by She Runs It for young women already making their mark on the industry. 

Through its weekly email and podcast, We Are Next gathers perspectives and advice from all over the industry to help those just starting out better understand the landscape and opportunities ahead. 





5 reasons why portfolio school is completely worth it

Here’s the thing: everything has pros and cons. Nothing’s going to be worth 100% of the time. Sometimes you’ll try something out, and it just won’t be for you.

But other times, it will be.

We want to look past the pain and doubt that comes with going to any school, and talk about the good, shiny, sparkly side portfolio school (we’ll cover the bad later, of course, maybe next week when I’m in a shittier mood).

Here are five reasons why portfolio school is the literal shit:

1. You’ll actually learn stuff


I know. It’s crazy. But after earning a fancy, massively expensive four-year college degree, and then ditching academia completely to join a two-year “idea” school, I think I still learned more with the latter.

At portfolio school, you’ll learn the Adobe Suite program basics. You’ll learn writing basics, photography basics, and design basics.

But then, they teach you how to concept, how to get over your fear of presenting shit, and how to fudge a campaign out of thin air.

And if you’re smart and you care, you’ll apply to advertising contests, and do a lot more work than your teachers assign you (because it’s actually fun), and you’ll become an Adobe master.

But more importantly, you’ll learn how to pitch ideas, build a campaign out of nothing and how to fudge your way through anything. These are real life skills that college just doesn’t seem to teach you. Through this short program, you’ll become a scrappy, business savvy “professional.” And by professional we mean a hack disguised as someone who knows what they’re doing (AKA EVERYONE WITH A JOB OOPS WE GAVE IT AWAY)


2. You get to experiment

Portfolio school is the only time you’ll get to do whatever you want without a client defecating all over it, so take advantage of it and go completely berserk. Seriously.

Get into body painting if it floats your boat, curse as much as you can and make stupid videos that question your sanity.

And by the end of two years, you’ll hopefully be a crazier, happier and freer version of who you were before.


3. You make connections

This is what will get you hired. But even if you don’t want that, these portfolio school connections are vital to whatever you do. Portfolio school classes are taught by industry professionals, and many of your peers will be interesting specimen who ran away from their lives to come up with weird ideas. So whether you start a business, change careers completely or join a cult on a remote island, chances are these contacts will come in handy one day.

For instance, I know a girl who graduated and then to joined a traveling circus in Mexico. She’s still in the circus, and I still keep in touch with her. Because you just never know.


4. You don’t need to graduate to get a job

This is the best part. Unlike an undergrad degree that you apparently “need” to get a boring sales job (and drown in a sea of debt), the advertising industry could care less. Of course, this is both good and bad because now I feel like an idiot who wasted four years throwing money into a pit filled with smelly freshman and cheap beer.

Aside from that, though, you can freelance while you’re in school to make extra cash. Or quit school early if a company deems you worthy of a job. Or quit again and start your own business. It’s a great feeling to not be tied down to a degree, despite what your parents might tell you. (For the last time ma, I never got a master’s).

However, there are portfolio schools (like VCU and a specific Miami Ad School degree), that will give you a master’s. But let’s be honest, you only want that to shut your parents up.


5. Portfolio School is actually fun

Portfolio school is a lot of work sometimes. But the good thing is it’s really, really fun.

If you go to Miami Ad School, you get to travel around the world doing internships. A couple of our writers did internships in Tokyo, Amsterdam, Australia, Miami, New York, LA, and Hong Kong. It’s insane.

But whatever portfolio school you go to, you’ll have a hell of a time. You’ll make connections that will last a lifetime, you’ll travel and work in places you never knew existed, and you’ll never be able to fully explain to your mom what exactly it is you do.

How much do agencies pay??

Let's talk about something that's actually useful to you: salaries. 

I have no idea why there's so much stigma around this topic, but it needs to end. Students have the right to know how much they'll be making without people accusing them of "selling out" and "only caring about money." Fuck that. Money pays for beer.

It's also dangerous for you guys to go in blind and potentially be taken advantage of and underpaid. So here are some salary stats from a 2015 salary survey by VCU:

As you can see, as a junior CW or AD (copywriter and art director), you seem to earn an average of $49-50k per year. But fear not! Life gets better. Also you can make bank if you freelance.

View the full survey on VCU's website. Thanks for being awesome VCU!

And thank you for being awesome, little shits. Now go forth and prosper. Literally.