My first “official” mentor, Cathy Fowler, came into my life when I was a 21 year old honours student dead set on becoming a film scholar. A professor at my alma mater back home, she was the best mentor a girl starting out in academia could have asked for. She made extensive notes on everything I wrote, took the time to calmly answer my frantic questions, turned up to every single presentation I gave. She taught me about building a career at the same time as she taught me about my specific field of study, and could say more with one raised eyebrow than most people can say in an entire lecture. She was (and is) a powerful advocate for women in academia, an example of how you can get ahead purely through your own merit and hard work (rather than stepping on other people), and makes a fantastic pear and lime muffin.
The formal definition of a mentor is a trusted advisor, but for me, the term carries a little bit more weight than that. They’re the people who you seek out when you’ve gone as far as you can on your own; the people you need when the road to success suddenly becomes a mountain that you need first-hand knowledge and experience to climb. A mentor is someone who has been where you want to go, and will show you how to get there yourself.
And you’ll need different mentors at different times, sometimes several at once. While I still place a huge amount of weight on Cathy’s advice and opinions (if the love letter above didn’t make that obvious enough), as I’ve changed career paths (which makes it sound a lot more deliberate and less exciting than it really was), I’ve found new mountains to climb and have needed new guides. I’ve got Karly and Adam, who teach me something new about business and what it really means to be successful in every conversation we have, and have given me countless opportunities to learn new skills and software; and then I’ve got Ange and Miranda helping me hone my skills and knowledge around social media marketing, and who probably deeply regret telling me that I could ask as many questions as I wanted.
I’m in a number of podcasting groups and communities around the web and fairly consistently, I see people reaching a plateau; well, two plateaus, actually, both of which could be resolved by finding a podcasting mentor.
The first tends to happen to people who are self-taught and self-funded on a limited budget . They reach a point where they want to improve the quality of their overall production and create a podcast that’s making some money (at a baseline, covering their running costs); but they don’t have anyone to teach them how to edit like a pro, create high quality audio branding, put flawless systems in place, all of the things you need to get your podcast ready for pitching at advertisers and sponsors. The second is one that I’ve identified in people who are able to outsource everything to editors, VAs and designers and get a really slick production happening, or have the time and skills to do those things themselves : their plateau comes when they face that moment of, “now what”? They start to lose passion and direction. They’re standing on top of the mountain and know they want to climb higher ones, but don’t know where to start.
If you’ve hit the first plateau, a mentor can teach you everything they know about editing, branding, and how to create a really professional production; you’ve got the raw materials, they have the toolbox. With Radcasters, we’ve packaged all of this into a six module course that you can work through in your own time, and which covers everything you’ll need to take your podcast from an enjoyable listen to something that’s really working for you.
If you’ve hit the second, Karly is offering private coaching sessions; if this is where you’re at, I recommend you don’t think, just book one. As I said above, the time I’ve spent with Karly has been invaluable. She’s not a hand-holder, but she will do everything she can to support and guide you as you forge your own path. I’ve been around a number of coaches who will just tell you what to do, and turn everything you’ve worked so hard for into something you don’t even recognise (I call that sort of coaching “seagull management” – swoop in, make a lot of noise and crap all over everything, and swoop back out) – and ultimately, that’s not helpful. Karly asks questions, really listens to your answers, weighs them up against her own instincts and experience, and then will help you create a plan that you’re really excited about and will help you take your podcast to a whole new level.
There’s a quote that’s always reminded me of Cathy, and mentoring more generally (courtesy of Isaac Newton): “if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” If you’re stuck at the bottom of a mountain, find a podcasting giant to coach and guide you, and watch how your attitude and excitement changes.