The Value of Being a Mentor

When I was just starting out in the business world, I was fresh out of school with lots of enthusiasm and energy, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do in my career. Having studied design, I knew I wanted to work in a creative industry and put my training to use. So, when I received an opportunity to make my summer job a full time career, I thought “why not?”

Lucky for me, it just so happened the opportunity was in marketing and advertising. What was probably the greatest stroke of luck, though, was finding a mentor that I credit with shaping, not only my career, but my life.

My mentor, whom I refer to as, “The Maestro” was the kind of mentor who did not believe in having me watch him work, so that I learned exactly how to do things his way. He believed in allowing me to find my own way by doing everything myself, even though I had zero experience. He was always close by guiding and encouraging me, especially when I was standing in my own way.

My fist memory of being completely shocked with his approach was on our annual catalog photo shoot. I was completely dazzled by the professionals involved in this shoot and was trying not to get in the way when he turned to me and said, “It’s your shoot, show me what you can do”. After my initial panic, I jumped right in and began providing creative direction.

Now, mind you, the Maestro was close by, quietly giving me direction, so that I knew when it was time to speak, but more importantly, when it was time to listen to the professionals. This was one of the most valuable lessons he taught me – to listen and learn from those around me.

One of the other great lessons he taught me was that making mistakes was part of the learning process. At times, I would become so afraid that I was going to make a mess and not be able to fix the mess I had made. However, I was always reassured that “that’s why there are erasers on pencils.” This was very empowering to me and, ultimately, allowed me to be more creative and think outside the box. I learned to takes risks – big ones that paid off.

Coming full circle on this jaunt down memory lane, this all came flooding back to me when our beloved summer interns arrived bright eyed, eager to learn and help out at our offices. It struck me at that moment that I had an opportunity to pay forward what my mentor had provided to me to these youngsters. I could do this by providing them the opportunity to learn and grow in a nurturing environment.

Without question, the several weeks that our interns were with us, I was not only extremely impressed at how mature these bright, young adults were, but how much they inspired me! Working on projects with them was a great experience, because I was able to share what I have learned over the last 20 years. It was also wonderful to expose them to others who could help, as well. Most importantly, working with our interns opened my eyes to looking at things differently and with new enthusiasm.

By being a mentor, you will find that you will see things from a different perspective, one that is fresh and energizing. Regardless of our experience, be open to learning, even from those that you are guiding and nurturing. You will be pleasantly surprised and rewarded by sharing the things that you’ve learned. You just might learn and grow, too.

AboutMichele Cardello

Michele Cardello joined Proforma in April of 2014. Prior to joining Proforma, Michele spent 17 years in the Professional Photography industry as a senior executive specializing in Marketing & Sales. Michele is excited to begin a new journey as Proforma’s Director of Strategic Partner Development, which is great, because she loves to travel, explore new surroundings and read (lots of time to read when traveling!)


  1. Great article and so true! I was lucky enough to have an amazing mentor as well and we still chat about life challenges and business challenges!

  2. This is a great blog on the importance of helping the next generation get started in their career! I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mentors. I also wanted to let you know that if you’re hiring interns this summer you can sign them for the ASI Summer Internship Program at

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