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Using Experience for Growth: Mentoring for Meaningful Connections

I fired the first person I ever hired within the first week, at age 23. While being in a new leadership role or endeavour can be exciting, it can also backfire if you do not have the support around you along the road.
Paula Rúpolo Berach

Marketing Lead, Wikiloc


The Start

When you are just out of college, all you want to do is to get your first pay. Once you get regular paychecks, all you want is to get promoted. Once you get promoted, all you want is to get a higher compensation. Once you get more pay, you start thinking about how else you can continue growing as a professional, person, father/mother/sister/brother and how to find a better work-life balance.

We’ve all been there. And those who have not – yet – are somewhere alongside the journey thinking about their next steps. Modern life has us all wanting more, all the time, and giving us very little time to stop and think things through until we struggle with moving forward. That is when we consider getting help.

Finding a coach or mentor nowadays is accessible for almost everyone, even if you can not afford it when starting your career there are platforms connecting volunteer mentors that do wonderful work. And, when you can invest in your future, it is just a matter of finding the right fit for you. Pretty similar to dating, in fact, you have to figure out your compatibility with your possible mentor, including:

  • Area of expertise: ideally it should be very close to your area of action/industry
  • Market or product-fit: ideally someone who has solved problems you will face yourself
  • Skillset: have similar technical abilities or the knowledge to understand your pain-points in execution
  • Likeability: be someone with whom you can build a good rapport and form a long-term relationship

My Story

I didn’t know any of that, back when I was 23 and had to hire the first person for my team. I had just been promoted to Art Director, after one and a half years working at a custom publisher in my hometown – a job which I loved to death. I was in charge of the graphic design work for all the publications we managed (3 magazines, 1 annual trade show, 2 websites) so I had to hire someone to work under me. 

And I did. And I fired them within the first week. I remember feeling like a small failure and how embarrassed I was to acknowledge to my boss that it had to be done – performance just wasn’t there from the beginning, nor reliability for work hours. While I sometimes regret maybe being a bit impatient, it was also clear to me. We were still on time to try to engage the second best candidate and were able to hire them in time. They stayed with us for years, it was just the right move.

But probably the best memory I have from that experience was my boss telling me “You did well, don’t overthink it… you figured out what was the right thing to do. I will handle the firing meeting, you just need to sit there.”. It was such a relief knowing someone with more experience would handle the situation and wanted to teach me how to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one to shy away from getting things done, but it was just the best thing that could happen for the fired employee to go through that process mess-free. At that point it wasn’t about me anymore and I was glad to have gone through that experience.

Life went on, I moved abroad and fast-forwarding time a little bit, I could say I’ve probably hired about 25 people in the last 10 years. And I got better at it everytime. And, then, by mentoring them on the job it led me to start mentoring people from outside the organizations I am involved with as well. 

On mentoring

Every mentee is different in so many ways: personality, journey, education, skillset, blockers, fears, aspirations, discipline. Everytime a new program starts, curiosity gets to me and, alongside with it, excitement to see how I can help them – from my past and current experience – to also feel accompanied in their journeys like my first boss did to me.

Building deeper connections with them, with their work and their goals helps both parties to humanize our relation to work from a much different point of view than the one which you build when working with other peers or clients: the exchange happens much more intensely. 

As much as I understand the value my expertise adds to them in their journey, the other way around is also accurate: I keep on learning from their energy, excitement, and way of thinking about things. It is just so refreshing and invaluable, genuinely. 

Just Start Somewhere

It is clear there are many reasons one should look for mentorship; however there are exactly a lot of reasons why you should also train yourself to mentor and give back the knowledge you have acquired throughout your professional years. You can start with a simple proposition: volunteering as a mentor for people who is just getting out of college and want to get into your same field of expertise.

Just start there.

Start somewhere and advance in the direction where you feel more confortable with. Luckily there are platforms like MentorCruise which also provides get insights into your first steps as a mentor and several others groups where you can share your thoughts and struggles as you get better at it.


We all have valuable experiences which can help others to thrive and give them guidance. And while mentoring is probably the highest form of passing on professional knowledge, it is also centred in human connection and your capacity to elevate others.

More than just offering advice or sharing your own perspective, it is about recognising the path the individual in front of you is willing to take and giving them tools for the journey. It is always much better to get on an adventure with company, and mentoring is about just that.


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