Aimee Stern is chief bravery officer at Brave Now PR and a member of ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council.
Mentoring programs vary in terms of scope and goals and come with unique challenges, but no matter what form they take, they prove beneficial to organizations, as well as mentors and mentees.
When it comes to association mentoring programs, one size does not fit all.
Members of ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council’s mentoring subcommittee interviewed seven association leaders about their mentoring programs. Interviewees came from different industries, worked on both new and well-established mentoring efforts, and had programs that served 30 to several hundred participants in each cycle. Most programs ranged from six to 12 months in length, but one took a one-and-done approach matching mentors and mentees for a single 30- to 60-minute session. All agreed that challenges aside, the effort is worth it.
“We are trying to make the industry better,” said Katie Greatti, associate director of learning and development for the Security Industry Association’s (SIA) Talent Inclusion Mentoring Education (TIME) program. “We want to create something that lasts in our members lives, and that impacts and changes them.”
What the programs researched have in common are their goals. These include:
Here’s a closer look at how some of these mentoring programs are supporting their respective industries and members.
When most of us think about mentoring, we picture graying industry veterans helping young professionals figure out how to jumpstart their careers. But in SIA’s case, and that of others, there were compelling reasons to toss the old model aside. For instance, there are skills and diversity gaps among SIA members. Many professionals do not have the technology skills of younger members, so mentors can also often be those who help boost their skills.
A major challenge associations face is aligning the number of mentors with mentees. SIA’s program was conceived early in the pandemic and officially began in June 2021 to run for a full year. According to Greatti, TIME got a lot of positive press for SIA and many of the relationships formed look as though they will last. Recruiting for year two is reaching a broader cross-section of members: Almost 50 percent are women and several members of color have recently signed up.
A major challenge associations face is aligning the number of mentors with mentees. The American Marketing Association’s chapter in Washington, DC, almost two decades old, changed the name of its mentoring program this past year to convince more mentors to sign on. Now called the Marketing Mentors Network (MMN), AMADC has employed tactics to keep both mentors and mentees engaged over the six-month program.
One tactic that has worked well in finding mentors is allowing first-time mentors to not be members of the association. However, when mentors come back for a second year, they are required to join AMADC. While the MMN mostly employs industry veterans to mentor young professionals, it also has mentees who want to move into a new area of marketing. These mentees are matched with mentors who are often in their thirties or forties at the height of their careers.
One element of the MMN that gets everyone excited is what it calls “Shark Tank: Marketing Edition.” Three or four marketers are put in virtual “hot seats” and must pitch themselves to industry veterans, the same way the contestants on the television show try to convince judges to buy their products. They receive immediate feedback from industry veterans and hone their interviewing skills in front of their peers in the program.
“This is by far the most popular part of our program,” said Giuseppe Laviano, a marketer who is part of the MMN’s leadership. “Attendance is high, and both mentors and mentees find it very rewarding.”
DECA is a 77-year-old association focused on preparing high school and college students for careers in hospitality, finance, marketing, management, and other similar professions. Many of its 6,000 chapter advisors are teachers who are close to retirement or leaving the profession, so DECA focuses its efforts on retaining advisors and onboarding new ones. Members of its Advisor Mentoring Network work with fellow classroom teachers to help integrate workforce preparation into the curriculum.
One tactic that helps mentors and mentees bond is that DECA provides its advisors with a framework that identifies three or four topics per month that are then presented as talking points to be discussed at monthly meetings. This helps both groups maximize their time together.
Implementing these programs can create multiple challenges, particularly in their early years. As Christopher Young, chief program officer at DECA explained, “We are struggling with implementation and tracking the data—we spent so much time getting it built and running [that] we decided to track it later.”
Although association mentoring programs still have a way to go, all the groups the subcommittee spoke with agree they helps their associations engage with members in positive ways.