Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The All-Important Plan B by Lyle Landon & Adrienne Blanks

The AWNY Mentoring pairing of mentee Adrienne Blanks, Account Executive at the New York Times, and mentor Lyle Landon, National Sales Director at NCI got off to a great start with a friendly phone conversation and plans to meet for lunch in January. As soon as they were seated, Adrienne announced, “I have some news, I’ve been laid off.”

Lyle, an experienced mentor, realized that her anticipated agenda would have to be scrapped to deal with this new, urgent development. Adrienne was adamant that she wanted to continue with the program, and that she would be relying on it even more to help her develop and execute a new short-term and long-term plan. When Lyle got back from lunch, she got the news that her position, among others, also had been eliminated, effective immediately. What a beginning!

Adrienne and Lyle continued to have mentoring meetings - in diners in NJ, in cafes in New York and then via phone conversations when Adrienne went home to Houston to explore employment opportunities there. They both encouraged one another to investigate other specialties within media, as advertising sales positions were continuing to disappear. Adrienne networked through colleagues and friends and worked as an Independent Contractor managing regional marketing promotions. Lyle, who had established her own company in 2007 for freelance sales and marketing projects, became an independent representative for her former employer and an out-of-home college media company. These were short-term solutions for both women, but important steps that generated cash flow and built confidence.

As of December, Adrienne continues to do contract work as a marketing manager and has launched theblvdmag.com, an online magazine catering to the lifestyle of the culturally aware twenty-somethings in the greater Houston area. Lyle’s client base has expanded beyond ad sales to include an outplacement services company, Bloomingdale’s, the US Census and a nonprofit dance company.

Adrienne said, “The AWNY mentoring program afforded me the opportunity to meet a dynamic mentor who helped guide me through this challenging year.” Lyle said, “I can’t wait to see what happens in the AWNY Mentoring 2010 program!”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Ask AWNY features questions sent in by the Mentoring Program community!

Q. I joined the Mentoring Program this year and had a great time with my mentor. I want to keep learning from new people, though, so I applied for a new mentor in 2010. Here's my problem— I want to keep up some kind of relationship with my current mentor since she's very easygoing and I trust her judgment. What is the best way to broach this topic with her before the year is up? I feel awkward because I don’t want to offend her in any way. Thanks!

A. You should absolutely keep up a relationship with your mentor! That said, navigating your mentor relationship after the New Year can be daunting, because ambiguity can create unnecessary anxiety.

"Are you...breaking up with me??!"

I promise it will not be that dramatic. Successful formal relationships end all the time— think about the last professional workshop you attended. It's a compliment to your mentor that you want to join the Mentoring Program again and stay in touch with her— it shows you found it (and her) to be a valuable part of your professional growth.

First, take charge. Approach the topic with your mentor the same way you discussed your goals when you met. A great time to bring it up is when you talk about your 2009 achievements (don’t forget to thank her for contributing to your success!) and list out your goals for 2010.

Even if you encountered obstacles during the year, don't be afraid to bring them up! You can both work together to brainstorm ways to learn from your experiences, so don’t pass up the opportunity.

Next issue: After your last “official” meeting, you likely won’t meet up once a month, but if your relationship is strong, you can still go to your mentor with the same kinds of problems or triumphs that you did during the previous year.

Mentoring Program veterans have told me about their current relationships with former mentors, and their experiences range quite a bit. It's very common to catch up often with a "former" mentor, but without the same regularity and focus as that first year. While some pairs simply swap emails around personal and professional milestones, some still make coffee dates and others call when they need a pep talk, an unbiased point of view or just want to say hello. (Shameless plug: some mentees invite their former mentors to AWNY events!) The happy medium is whatever you both want it to be.

The good news is that mentors don’t disappear or turn into pumpkins after the Times Square ball drops. You should always be cultivating a "cabinet" of professional mentors, so get excited— it sounds like you are well on your way. Good luck!

Send your mentoring questions to awnymentoring@gmail.com. All senders will remain anonymous!