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Mighty Mentors

How early is too early to show up for your first day of work? Jenny Anderson knows from experience that two hours is probably too early.

“I arrived in the city at 7:30 the night before my first day at work as a creative marketing intern,” recalls Anderson, who came to New York City in May 2017. “I’d never been to New York before, and I thought, ‘How does one ride the subway? I have no idea where I’m going.’” Allotting two hours to get to work, she caught a train and arrived in twenty minutes—a full hour and forty minutes earlier than expected. “It was a wide-eyed-and-eager, naïve kind of moment,” she recalls, laughing.

Cartoon image of a woman
Photo by Illustrations By Traci Daberko

Today the Minnesota native and 2018 BYU advertising alum has not only mastered the subway, commuting daily to her full-time job at a global advertising agency, but she is also thriving in the Big Apple. “I love it,” she says. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

What made the difference? Mentors. “People who always have a minute to stop and say hello, to hear your low-level crisis or whatever worry or concern you have, even if it’s something silly in the grand scheme of things,” she explains. “People who build you up and make you feel like you have a purpose and you have potential. Mentors have been huge for me.”

Power Couples

Everyone can benefit from mentors, and we all have the ability to mentor others.

Consider history. Henry David Thoreau had Ralph Waldo Emerson. Oprah Winfrey had Maya Angelou. Bill Gates had Warren Buffett. Even Mother Teresa had Father Michael, a priest, confidant, and friend she met while waiting for a bus in Rome.

Cartoon image of many people walking on arrows

Whether we’re old or young, experienced or not, the workplace can be one of the best places to forge a meaningful mentorship. Research shows that successful mentoring can increase an employee’s career prospects, invite raises and promotions, and create accountability. In one study of more than one thousand workers at a technology firm in California, mentoring program participants were promoted five to six times more often than nonparticipants.

Mentoring can also help employers drive employee engagement, retention, and knowledge sharing, all of which contribute to a socially healthy, productive workplace. Today about 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies use mentoring programs as an employee development tool.1

Experts say more and more companies are investing in mentoring programs as a business necessity, leveraging apps and mobile technology, incorporating diversity and inclusion training, and integrating common-interest groups that can help improve compatibility between mentors and mentees.2 Career sites are also registering an interest in the topic. LinkedIn reports that 80 percent of its users say they want a mentor or mentee; of those, more than half say they don’t know how to navigate the process.3

While finding the right person can be difficult, the effort is worth it for those who persevere.

200 and Counting

The BYU Marriott School of Business has a number of ways for mentors to get involved, from long-standing mentoring programs to advisory boards to Business Career Center resources—even the newly launched BYU Connect, a global networking and mentoring platform for students and alumni (see sidebar on following page).

But to understand the power of mentorships, it’s worth asking a few questions: What makes a good mentor? What makes a good mentee? And what do successful mentorships look like?

A brand strategist, Adrienne Martin earned an advertising and marketing communications degree and management minor from BYU in 2006. Since then, she has helped some two hundred students secure internships, including Anderson. Martin says she started mentoring after her internship at Y&R (an advertising firm on New York’s famed Madison Avenue) turned into a full-time job with lots of ambiguity. After floundering for the first year, she found a way to help herself and others: “I started making presentations that would train anybody coming in to think about the role and the process and where they might fit in and feel the most confident at this agency,” she says. Then she shared her slides with newcomers.

Katie Nydegger was one of them. Having reached out to Martin to learn about the industry, the two reviewed Martin’s presentation over FaceTime. “The slide deck talked about the differences between marketing and advertising, the different roles within advertising, and how a campaign works,” Nydegger says. The pair also discussed work-life balance, salary, and a typical day on the job. “Adrienne was so transparent,” she says, “which made me want to always reach out to her.”

After interning with Martin in summer 2018, Nydegger returned to BYU, where she graduated in advertising in 2019. She still keeps in touch with Martin, whom she calls a mentor and a friend. “She is someone I care about, and I know she cares about me,” Nydegger says.

A Two-Way Street

For BYU Marriott students seeking mentors of their own, relationship building is key.

“We work hard to get our students to make efforts to connect,” says Stan Wilson, managing director of BYU Marriott’s Undergraduate Programs Office.

A genuine human being reaches out, not for selfish reasons but to help give back. It’s a two-way street. It’s about building a friendship.

Mike Roberts, assistant dean and director of the Business Career Center, encourages mentees to spend most of their time listening and learning. “Here’s a great way for a mentee to start,” he says. “‘I’m super interested in Adobe. I’ve seen your career. I’d love to learn more.’ There’s really no one who would say no to that.” And to any students who may fear the networking process, Roberts suggests breaking it down and making it real. “Find a way to help your mentors, or connect them with someone who can, and then make the introduction.”

A good example, Roberts offers, is a job hunter who once made a list of all the people he had contacted and realized that he could broker relationships within the group, matching skills and expertise to specific needs. He knew enough about the interests and challenges of the group members to make those connections. “He became an asset to everyone on the list,” says Roberts. “He became that much more valuable to the people around him”—just as any mentee can be with a little diligence and ingenuity.

For mentors and mentees with a common professional interest, such as entrepreneurship or accounting, the school’s numerous advisory boards are a great way to serve and connect with both students as well as professionals in the field. As liaison of the Undergraduate Management Advisory Board—a group of two dozen business leaders who volunteer their time, expertise, and financial resources to help pre-business students envision their career and life plans—Wilson says he has seen a number of mentorships blossom. “It’s been a huge win-win,” he says.

Mentors in the Making

So what makes a good mentor?

“A mentor is someone you have a high degree of confidence in, a high degree of trust in, and someone you can bounce ideas off of,” Roberts says. Good mentoring, he adds, includes “taking an interest in people and helping them reach their aspirations and goals.”

Greg Taylor, a 2015 BYU advertising graduate who earned a minor in management, works at Y&R with Anderson; he has had two mentors since arriving in New York. The first was Martin, whom he describes as caring and fun. “She expects a lot from her mentees, but you always know she has your best interest in mind,” he observes.

The second, his current mentor, “does a good job of pushing me to produce high-quality work while also caring for my career and well-being,” he says. A new father, Taylor and his wife are now juggling work and family in one of America’s busiest cities.

This kind of drive to help and develop others goes a long way. “That’s what we’re looking for at BYU Marriott,” he says. “We want to grow our network of people who are going to create opportunities for our students to get started in a work environment. We love to have people in industry who have a strong interest in giving back.”

Mentees on the Move

And finally, what makes a good mentee?

An open mind and a willingness to ask for and accept feedback helped Nydegger leverage opportunities when she returned to Provo. Following her mentor’s advice to always network—even when she didn’t need anything—Nydegger easily landed another internship.

As for Roberts, he emphasizes the need for compatibility. “As individuals, we need to find someone we connect with, someone we trust and want to emulate,” he says. And that goes both ways. “The word I always focus on is advocacy. If you can develop a group of people who are willing to advocate for you, then you’ve created something special.”

Cartoon image of a building with a man on top holding a rope down to a person climbing the side of the building holding the rope

Wilson adds that a mentee’s drive and commitment matter most. Having watched an enterprising student reach out and form a successful mentorship with an advisory board member, Wilson says he was impressed. “They’re colleagues now,” he says. “That mentor is extremely pleased with the opportunity he had to mentor this student.”

Every mentorship is different, but setting ground rules early on in the relationship can ensure success. Experts recommend taking time to define a structure. How and how often will partners communicate? What about confidentiality, accountability, and goals? What about feedback and reflection?

A good mentee can take ownership of the partnership by working to answer these questions with the mentor and by making sure that each side understands the goals and parameters.

Paying It Forward

The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met.” Through strong mentorships, we can imitate the best qualities we see in our mentors while striving to bring out the best in those we mentor.

Just ask Anderson, who recently mentored some of VMLY&R’s summer interns on top of her responsibilities managing two major accounts. “Being a mentor was great, especially having been on that side of the line so recently,” she says.

Transitions in life can be challenging, and Anderson still credits her own mentors for guiding her over the threshold. “I’ve done the best I can to emulate what they’ve done and what they’ve taught me and return the favor,” she says, “because mentors make such a world of difference.”


Article written by Bremen Leak
Illustrations by Traci Daberko

About the Author
Bremen Leak, a 2005 BYU grad, has written for Marriott Alumni Magazine since 2006.


  1. Mary Abbajay, “Mentoring Matters: Three Essential Elements of Success,” Forbes, 20 January 2019,
  2. Kate Harrison, “The Top Employee Mentoring Trends for 2019,” Forbes, 22 February 2019,
  3. Anwesha Jalen, “Introducing LinkedIn Career Advice, a New Way to Help You Find and Connect with Professionals for Mentorship,” 15 November 2017.

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