Career in Need of a Boost? Be a Mentor

Train Future Leaders and Sharpen Your Own Skills, Too

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Teaching a media-planning class last school year at the University of Missouri, Stephanie Padgett got a crash course in Facebook 101.
Stephanie Padgett, chief client strategist for Walch Communications
Stephanie Padgett, chief client strategist for Walch Communications

"I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do. I didn't know that I needed to go seek friends, and I was cautious about sharing information online," she said.

But after spending time with a group of college students, she learned to embrace the social network, and soon she was poking, tagging and friending with the best of them.

"Being submerged with these students, boy, did I start to understand how that media is valuable to them," said Ms. Padgett, 39.

Night job
Experiences like these are what keep Ms. Padgett in the classroom. She started teaching night media courses at Xavier University in Cincinnati about five years ago, while working as an executive with Cincinnati-based agency Empower MediaMarketing, where she has worked on and off for about a decade.

Last January, she got an opportunity to devote more of her schedule to teaching and mentoring, thanks to Empower CEO Bill Price and his wife, Mary Beth, both graduates of the Missouri School of Journalism, home of the college's strategic-communications program.

"We got to thinking that we could be so helpful to the journalism school by infusing them with ... day-to-day information," Mr. Price said.

Mr. Price tapped Ms. Padgett to teach a media-planning class and help run MoJo, the journalism school's student-run advertising agency.

Ms. Padgett now splits her time between the school and Empower, where she maintains her full-time job as chief client strategist for Walch Communications, a division of Empower.

"It does take a lot of flexibility and coordination to work with an office that's two states away," she said. But the travel's worth it, she said, because she is "training the next generation of the leaders in the industry."

Besides the personal fulfillment she gets, being a mentor also helps Ms. Padgett's marketing skills by engaging her in the most cutting-edge technologies that are shaping the industry. Empower, meanwhile, benefits from her interaction with about 60 students a semester.

'13-week interview'
"These students don't realize it, but they are on a 13-week interview with me," Ms. Padgett said.

Former students say they appreciated working so closely with someone with working knowledge of the advertising industry -- particularly during their time at MoJo.

Daniel Wylde, a recent Missouri graduate, said working with Ms. Padgett gave him a new appreciation for the media business.

"She knew what to do in any given situation at any given time. You could ask her anything and she'd have an answer right off the top of her head. Her ideas always seemed to work," he said.

Thinking of becoming a mentor yourself? Here's what to keep in mind:


Most universities with advertising programs welcome business executives to guest lecture. Inquire about becoming an adjunct professor, which allows you to teach part time while maintaining your work schedule.

"One of the most exciting things is watching the kids embrace an area that before they thought was foreign or scary and watching them get excited about the possibilities," Ms. Padgett said.


College students often are encouraged to enter advertising competitions, like the American Advertising Federation's National Student Advertising Competition. Find out if any local colleges are competing and offer to mentor them through the competition.


If you are seeking more day-to-day interaction with students, offer to supervise student advertising clubs.

"I had done lecturing before, but you don't get to that deeper level with these students," Ms. Padgett said.
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