Why mentorship matters.
Kristin Watson and Julia Dean had only been friends a short while before teaming up last summer to change the lives of students and recent graduates during the peak of the COVID pandemic.
After graduating in December of 2019 with a degree in Graphic Communications from Clemson University, Kristin found herself navigating the challenging job search process in early 2020. The resource that Kristin found extremely beneficial at the time was a strong mentor, pushing and leading her through the process. It was this mentor who ultimately helped her land a job at the Trade Desk. Having a mentor namely helped Kristin learn the ins and outs of the industry which ultimately shifted her focus from wanting to work in the agency side of advertising to ad tech.
On the other hand, Julia was locked-in with a position at Deloitte Consulting as a Human Capital Analyst, one she’d secured before graduating from Babson College in 2019. Still, Julia felt compelled to help those struggling with employment during COVID after seeing so many students and young adults on LinkedIn who had lost their jobs, internships, or were simply looking for work.
The Adobe conference where Julia and Kristin first met
Kristin and Julia met at an Adobe conference in 2018 and, being adamant about maintaining their network, stayed in touch. during quarantine, the two put their heads and past/ professional experiences together to come up with an idea: connecting mentors and mentees to ease current job woes. Given that her mentor was her main cheerleader, Kristin remembered how integral a mentor was to her job search process. Similarly, Julia recalled her providing mentorship as a resource for others, whether it was advising them on applying for the Fulbright Program, breaking into consulting or general career advice. It was a match made in heaven.
Their plan was to match students with mentors who were working in their field of interest so they could provide insights, advice, case prep, and even review resumes. The two began by informally naming the program “Let’s Get This Bread” and blasting out an interest form on LinkedIn. The name was splashy, the logo engaging, and the overall messaging resonated with the targeted age group, who were looking for a genuine and unintimidating approach to career help. What happened next wasn’t what either of them were expecting. The two estimated they might garner the interest of less than 30 young professionals , yet ended up engaging over 70 mentees (including myself!) and a little over 50 mentors.
Let’s Get This Bread Launch Video
After manually pairing the mentors and mentees, Kristin and Julia let all the participants structure their mentorship in the way that they wanted, enabling the pairings to choose the pace and frequency of meetings that were best for them. Six weeks later, the two sent an email to participants asking how the program went so they could evaluate how to define success for the program in the future.
The founders then launched a second version of their program with a new cohort of mentors and mentees after collecting feedback from the first group of participants. Through focus groups and feedback forms, Kristin and Julia realized they had a small but mighty group of members who really valued the platform the two were able to build for them. Asking for a mentor is incredibly daunting and it is difficult to find someone willing and able to speak with you on a consistent basis. This form of structured peer mentoring was more approachable to those who needed help and encouragement during the quarantine.
So, what ultimately makes a good mentee? Honesty, both founders said:
“You need to be honest about what you need help with; that’s how you will best use your time with your mentor.”
And for a mentor? It would have to be honesty and approachability. “There is nothing harder than having a mentor relationship that doesn’t feel like a safe place to be raw and candid,” says Kristin.
Kristin and Julia cite the time they started the program as being pivotal to the success of the rebranded “GTB Mentorship Program”. “A lot of people wanted to help out and a lot needed that help,” mentions Julia, who sees entrepreneurship as being instrumental to solving community-focused needs. The founders also note that the program was incredibly helpful to participants because mentors were only 1 to 3 years older than those they were mentoring, mimicking a peer-on-peer help model.
Julia and Kristin mentioned many positive stories that resulted from the program and I’d like to cite mine as being one of them! When I came across the program and its catchy title, I knew I had to be a part of something that was uplifting, encouraging, and helpful during the challenging time I was going through. Having lost multiple job opportunities due to the COVID pandemic, I was desperately seeking help to break into the consulting industry. I felt helpless and confused and thought it couldn’t hurt to seek some outside guidance. My mentor Sean turned out to be one of the most instrumental people throughout my job search process, case prepping with me, editing my resume, providing continual guidance, and inspiring me to create this very blog – thanks Kristin and Julia!
When I asked them why they thought they were the best people to run the GTB Mentorship Program, Kristin and Julia jointly replied that they didn’t consider themselves to be the right people to start the program. They explained it was their passion and commitment to following through on their idea that made them become the right people.
Although GTB shut down after its second cohort, I feel confident that there will be so many more amazing programs and businesses created by these intelligent women. What does that mean for the rest of us? If the future is anything like Kristin and Julia’s entrepreneurial past, help is on the way!