Mentoring is the ultimate marketing experience

As marketing becomes more complex, senior marketers can show junior staff the strategy to succeed

As marketing grows to encompass the entire business function, and marketers are expected to develop more skills, it becomes harder to pin down the talents needed to advance and thrive in the profession. It’s no surprise that research published by CIM and Target Internet has revealed that, in general, senior marketers lack digital skills, but their junior equivalents have not developed the strategic skills to match the organisation’s objectives.

So, if you’re a senior marketer, the best way to bridge this gap is, arguably, through mentoring the younger generation. Though it brings challenges and rewards, if done well, the long-term impact of mentoring can offer life- and career-changing benefits to both parties.

Mentoring is not coaching

The terms mentoring and coaching often get used interchangeably, but they are very different in practice.

Mentoring consists of a long-term relationship focused on supporting the growth and development of the mentee. The mentor becomes a source of wisdom, teaching, and support, but not someone who observes and advises on specific actions or behavioural changes in daily work. Coaching is a far more short-term arrangement, suited for the same industry, whilst mentoring allows people from different industries to share knowledge; famously, Bill Gates cites Wal-Mart tycoon Warren Buffett as his mentor.

Marketing, with its wide business focus, has a huge range of potential leaders able to make a real difference.

It has history, but it’s the future too

Mentoring goes back to ancient myth. The word comes from the epic poem, “The Odyssey” when Odysseus, King of Ithaca went to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusted the care of his kingdom to Mentor; Mentor would go on to teach Telemachus whilst Odysseus was at war.

Marketing has that history too. Collaboration with other departments is at the heart of the profession, but it’s time to bring those ideas in to the wider corporate focus. As marketing becomes increasingly influential, workloads become stretched, and finding the time to give back becomes harder and harder, but it shouldn’t be abandoned.

As recent school leavers indicated that only 29% would give up training to land their dream job – in comparison, 50% would give up a company car – we have a generation ready to listen and learn; it’s time to make the most of it.

It’s a two-way process

Of course, it won’t just be the mentees learning, mentoring offers a chance for you to learn leadership skills, communication methods and, in the best instances, a completely different perspective that can be applied back to your own marketing function.

As we said before, mentoring isn’t the same as coaching. You are not there to give people a path, you are there to provide a map; the choices are ultimately up to them. That means you must teach in a democratic manner, taking in to account the situation your mentee finds themselves in and adjusting to the situation as it goes along.

The skills needed to be a great mentee are the same as those needed to be an efficient marketer, you will learn just as much about yourself as you will anyone else.

The CIM approach

These are just a few of the reasons why CIM has a mentoring programme seeking to pair aspiring mentees, who wish for assistance, with knowledgeable mentors, who offer support. The mentee will submit a proposal based on their intended learning outcomes, and a mentor will choose which student they’d like to help.

By setting an agenda, leading the meetings and agreeing an action plan for the following lesson, you hone your skills whilst offering constructive feedback. Whilst the mentee should eventually reach their intended outcome, you can build a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship that will make both of you better marketers.


Boost your professional development. Empower and guide fellow marketers. To become a CIM mentor you must hold either Member (MCIM) or Fellow (FCIM) graded membership. Find out more here

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