How to Approach Mentoring as an Established Professional

by rc

BMA Chicago mentoring

Last month, BMA Chicago’s Young Professional board hosted a panel event: The Value of a Mentor and How to Pursue One, in partnership with Motorola Solutions Young Professionals Group. The panel included Liu Jones of Chicago Youth Opportunities Initiative, Julie Northcutt of, and Galina Andrushko of Wrigley. The small panel was moderated by the remarkable Elly Deutch, Global Campaign & Advocacy Manager at McDonald’s Corporation, who did a great job keeping up the energy and winning a few good laughs. Despite the room being filled with young careerists, there was a lot of great advice for the established professional. The panelists shined light on the importance of having a mentor no matter what your level of experience is or how old you are. At any stage of your career, having a mentor (or mentors) can have a positive impact on your career.

Here are a few ways established professionals can leverage mentoring:


In the marketing industry, ‘reverse mentoring’ refers to being mentored by a younger employee. But a lot of companies take a more wide-spread approach by switching mentoring roles with someone who holds a completely different set of skills, despite the level of experience. If you work in a collaborative company, it can provide a fresh perspective on someone else’s expertise and what they do in order to get projects to the finish line. Red Caffeine advocates for regular Lunch N’ Learns, where every employee has the opportunity to teach the entire team something new. This helps employees grow in confidence by teaching their colleagues what they know best. Each quarter, we invite a professional outside of Red Caffeine to learn about new ways we can provide more value to our clients.


Many professionals, especially CEOs and other leadership roles, find having a “board of directors” (or in other words, a “tribe”) useful. Mentoring has proved to be a valuable asset to our CEO, Kathy Steele. When she went through a business divorce three years ago, she found a tribe through the Small Giants Community. Tom Walter, a founder of Tasty Catering, mentored Kathy through the early stages of Red Caffeine. Tom highly encouraged Kathy to join the Small Giants community, which led her to join a tribe of people who helped support her business transition. Today, Walter has continued to be a mentor not just for Steele but also for our entire team. There are so many great programs and communities that offer a chance to build your own tribe, such as The Junto Institute, a leadership and entrepreneurial program in Chicago. This program connects you with other companies and a group of mentors to help support individual and business growth. Local and regional associations, much like the BMA Chicago, also provide great avenues to meet new people and can connect you with like-minded business professionals who can support your growth. For instance, Jim Carr, the owner of CARR Machine & Tool, met his mentor, Kent Gladish, through the Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA).


“When you reach 49, you realize you need to mentor down; learn from those younger than you,” states Julie Northcutt, CEO of There’s never a time in our career where we think, “I know everything!” There’s so much to learn not just from our peers, but also the generations before and after us. Mentoring doesn’t always mean learning from those before us. You can learn something from the new generations, especially on advancements in technology and social media -- two avenues in marketing that change rapidly. A great mentor can become a long-term friend who you can trust at any stage in your career. We can’t stress enough how important it is to devote time into building a relationship with a mentor. Check out upcoming events hosted by BMA Chicago.