Why we need to get past imposter syndrome to become mentors

Thought Leadership
The Drum recently published this article by our Managing Partner, Lucy Doubleday, sharing her experience of becoming a mentor, how it helped her overcome her own self-doubt, and why it’s vital for both women and men to have confidence in what they can give to others. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it below.

Everyone knows mentorship can be invaluable for those looking for support in their career. It can improve young people’s confidence and even help create a more diverse workplace. I’m confident that the advertising industry would be a better place if we had more mentors.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to be a mentor for the first time. I was flattered but also struck by imposter syndrome, wondering whether I’d be able to add enough value. Fortunately, my curiosity won over any self-doubt – I love meeting new people and was intrigued as to who I’d end up chatting with. I also decided it was a time for me to have confidence to give others the benefit of my experience. I now mentor on a one-to-one basis, and as part of wider events.

For me, being a mentor means sharing my experiences so that others can learn from them. When I first started out in the industry, there were numerous times when my seniors would ‘just know’ the right thing to do. It would frustrate the hell out of me. There are so many situations that you can’t find in a textbook, and it’s the years of handling these that allows you to provide good advice. I’ve worked hard over my career and had some incredible highs and some lows that felt insurmountable at the time. They weren’t – with the benefit of experience and hindsight I know this. If I can use all this to help a few people, that’s a lovely thing to be able to do.

For example, I recently volunteered to be a mentor at a Who’s Your Momma Speed Mentoring event, based on ‘Confidence’ an ‘Self Esteem’. Who’s Your Momma is a programme offered by SheSays that is genuinely making a difference, having already matched over 3,000 women globally with mentors and mentees. It was an inspiring evening, sharing experiences with women at various different stages in their career. Everyone involved came away feeling far more confident in their ability to handle day-to-day problems, having listened and learned from one another.

It took a leap of faith for me to become a mentor. I know a lot of other senior women who don’t mentor and it’s very rarely due to apathy, but it can be because they lack confidence in the value they can offer. Women are more likely to have imposter syndrome than men – it’s said that two-thirds of UK women suffer from this feeling of not being good enough. But I’d argue that few people ever feel 100 per cent ready to be a mentor. You just need experience, an open mind and willingness to listen to others.

Being a mentor can actually help conquer your own self-doubt. Much has been written about mentorship from the point of view of the value to the mentee, but little on the value to the mentor. It can be such a rewarding experience. The support you can provide others is always the main objective, but it’s also an amazing journey of re-discovery for those providing help.

We need more mentors. Organisations like the Creative Mentor Network, who we partner with at We Are Social, run a 16-week programme to help prepare people to be mentors. Supporting organisations like this will encourage the mentors of tomorrow. It’s also vital for both women and men to have confidence in what you can give to others. For anyone who’s wondering whether you’re good enough to be a mentor, have the guts to give it a go. You might find it’s one of the best decisions you will ever make.