Ginger Kessler
To Be a Mentor or to be Mentored – Either Way You Will Benefit

It makes such sense that we all should have mentors in our careers.  Whether they be through a formal program, a request to someone more senior that you admire, or a more casual relationship that evolves over time, we all know how beneficial these relationships are but still many of us never do it.

GMarkU Mentoring Program

This is why we have started the Mentor Program at Government Marketing University.  The goal for GMarkU is to help marketers grow and succeed in their public sector marketing careers and this is exactly what a mentor program should do as well.

Being in the federal space for most of my career, I reached out to my colleagues to see who would be interested in being involved in the mentor program.  The senior marketing leaders were very excited to design and participate in the program so that they can help those less experienced to grow in their careers.

Program Design

We created a program that would allow protégés to benefit from a one-to-one relationship but also to get to know the other mentors and protégés involved.  Each mentoring session runs for four months with one meeting per month. Our initial brainstorming call produced a wonderful concept – do the program over lunch so that the horrible traffic that we deal with in the D.C. area is avoided.   So as a result we meet from 11am – 1pm once per month over lunch.

Our agenda kicks off with a group program on a topic that is of big importance to our protégés.   Then we have the 1:1 session with the paired up protégés and mentors followed by networking so that everyone in the program can interact with each other.  We wanted to kick off the first session with 10 mentors and 10 protégés and ended up with 11 of each.

Feedback So Far

Feedback about the program has been extremely positive.  The protégés are really participating in the group and networking sessions, and they are finding the 1:1 mentoring time to be very valuable.  The mentors are enjoying sharing their experiences but are also learning from those that are less experienced.  And the energy at each session is electric!

Group Program Topics

Our first session topic was about how to get the most out of a mentoring program. I had the pleasure of hosting a panel of mentors including Rebecca Umberger, Ann-Marie Clark and Shelly Scarpelli. Here are some of the highlights that were shared during this discussion:

  • At every stage of your career, it’s important to have a mentor to bounce ideas off of, solve problems and share successes
  • A mentor can be for a specific area you want to improve and grow in. If you are not a wiz at pivot tables and know you need this skill for your career, then find someone who is and ask them to mentor you in just this one area.
  • Networking is everything, and your network is critical to your success.

Kim Hower led the second session and she interviewed Rita Walston and Cathy Cromley about the various paths to becoming a senior level contributor in public sector marketing. Topics covered in the discussion included: how to climb the ladder, most important skills for career progression, setting criteria for what you want in your next position and measuring each opportunity to that criteria, and the Top 10 Work Advice columns/blogs /books.

We had great questions from the protégés and the conversation once again included everyone.  I took numerous notes at this session because such great ideas were being shared – many of which I had not considered even though I have been a marketer for 20+ years.

In April we discussed “how to maximize your marketing budget”.  Both protégés and mentors sent in their ideas ahead of time for discussion during our group session, and everyone left with a few tips that would stretch their marketing budgets.

May’s topic addressed “Account-Based Marketing: what is it, who is doing it and how to implement it?”  So many of us in the federal space need to be better educated on this newer tactic so we invited a guest speaker, John Muehling, to share his knowledge with us.  We learned that it is really “Account-Based Strategy” and not “Marketing” because the entire organization needs to be committed and involved in this strategy; data is key to your success, you need a process; content is king; establishing metrics is vital; it includes traditional marketing, and we were given an overview of some of the tools out there that can help us to implement an Account-Based Strategy.

Call to Action

And now my call to action - because as all marketers know - you need to end with a call to action. I am reaching out to anyone who is reading this blog to encourage you to take advantage of this Mentoring program through Government Marketing University.  If you are a potential protégé – don’t put off having a mentor anymore.  Take advantage of a structured program where you can have input on what will be discussed.  If you are a mentor – take all those experiences and give back to your marketing community.  And mentors - I guarantee you that this program will help you to grow in your career as well.

Fall will be our second mentoring session.  We plan to meet once per month from Sept – December.  Registration for the fall session will open in the July time frame.  We ask you a few basic questions on the online form so that we can match up our mentors and protégés.  Mentors give their time and protégés pay $250 (something tells me that your employer will probably reimburse you for this expense spent on making you a better marketer).  Please do not wait if you know you are interested now - send me an email at so that I can reserve your spot to be a mentor or a protégé for the fall session.