Weekly Editorial

Mentorship in the Modern Workplace

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • September 5, 2023

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When I was a junior studying journalism and economics at Michigan State University, I met Ed Wendover, publisher of the Plymouth-Canton (Mich.) Community Crier newspaper. He taught an excellent class at Michigan State on media criticism.

As a class, we “reviewed” newspapers in Michigan based on content, design, community engagement and a number of other factors. At the end of the class, we published and printed a media critique of all the publications. A small group from our class drove from East Lansing to Plymouth in the Detroit suburbs to lay out the media crit publication and Ed and I became friends.

It was a difficult time in my life and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after graduation. It was 1993 and the economy was in shambles. Newspaper jobs were difficult to come by, to say the least. Eventually, I found a job as an editor at the Manistique Pioneer-Tribune newspaper in a small Upper Peninsula town. I kept in touch with Ed, who was helping out on a campaign for one of his friends who was running for Senate in addition to publishing his own paper. The candidate was scheduled to campaign in the Upper Peninsula and he would be stopping in Manistique with Ed. When we met, I was offered a job as press secretary for the campaign.

I quit my job in Manistique and prepared to move to Plymouth to join the campaign staff. Half a week later, the candidate dropped out of the race. I was left without a job. Ed offered me a position at The Crier in Plymouth. In the few years I worked there before moving to the Ann Arbor News, Ed and I grew close and he became my mentor (and remains my mentor today).

It is one of the most important relationships in my life. Ed taught me how to be compassionate in my reporting. He taught me valuable lessons including sage advice like: “Don’t puke on the corpse” when I went to cover my first homicide (it was good advice). He also set me up with my wife, Stephanie, who was the art director at the paper at the time. We’ve been married since.

We all need a little help and guidance in our professional and personal lives, someone to bounce ideas off, filter some of our crazy plans and act as a friend and confidant. In short, everyone needs a mentor like Ed.

It’s difficult to find the right mentor, especially in the age of hybrid work and work-from-home plans that are keeping employees apart and isolated. How do you find a mentor at work when you never see any of your coworkers? Still, it is possible and definitely worth pursuing.

We often think of mentors as someone older, but there is much to be learned from younger generations as well. I work with a few people younger than me that I consider mentors too. Younger generations see the world through a different lens and it is important to understand what makes them tick and learn from their valuable experience as well.

If you are a bit older and mentor someone, you’ll find that it’s a two-way street — yes, you will pass on your knowledge and experience to them, but they will pass it on to you as well. Mentoring is a great way to put a spark in your career. It will energize and change you.

And we could all do with a bit of change right about now, don’t you think?


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