How Early Mentorship Changed the Trajectory of My Career

As I reflect upon my undergraduate career development, I realize mentorship played a large role in boosting personal growth and professional success, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. 

A mentor can come from anywhere, as former NYWICI President Georgia Galanoudis says, and it starts with an open mind to learn and connect. Part of the reason why my internship at Hearst Magazines brought me a lifetime of impact was because of the mentors I gained from it, one being the Hearst representative who interviewed me for NYWICI’s Ellen Levine Memorial Scholarship

Although the representative works in a different department than the one I was placed in as an intern, I was impressed by how insightful, inquisitive and personable she was during my interview and decided to reach out to pick her brain over lunch. Ever since that lunch, we’ve kept in touch, and she’s been a person I can count on for advice and fresh perspectives. She’s a mentor of mine despite not being officially labeled as one. 

In fact, most of my mentors aren’t labeled as such. They’re professors, colleagues, managers and acquaintances I’ve met along the way who I simply admired or respected and decided to grow closer with. They’re people I can have open conversations with, who encourage me to take risks and help me think through tough career decisions. I’ve valued asking them questions about their career paths, sharing thoughts about our latest media consumption and gaining insights about the communications industry. 

Other than conversations that spark personal and professional development, my mentors have also made introductions for me that opened doors to new career opportunities. They’ve helped me set achievable goals and have celebrated my successes with me. And even if they haven’t given me direct guidance, I’ve been able to engage in a concept Linda Descano calls “little m” mentoring, which is mentorship received by observing others – from watching how they go about daily interactions to admiring how they dress.

I’ve learned a mentor-mentee relationship is what you make of it. The relationship is a two-way street, and like Descano says, anyone who is willing to offer their time is going to expect something in return, and usually it’s gratitude. A simple “thank you” goes a long way just like a simple “hello” can open new doors.

Written by Lilli Iannella, 2023 Ellen Levine Memorial Scholarship Recipient


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