The Mentor Diaries: Wendy Squires and Abby Alexander

To celebrate the launch of the Expert Mentor Program, WLA Connect is bringing you a series of interviews with mentor/mentee pairs. These interviews aim to shine a light on the benefits of being a mentor and mentee, the qualities that mentors and mentees find useful, and what both parties most enjoy about their relationship. This interview focuses on Wendy Squires and Abby Alexander, who were connected by Tracey Spicer as part of the Women in Media mentoring program.

More than ever, we need to support women to step into leadership roles. The Expert Mentor Program will help you develop the skills to be an exceptional mentor and champion emerging women leaders in your industry and organisation. Find out more here.

What are some of the benefits of being a mentor?

Wendy: Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone starting out in the business getting ahead. Mentoring is incredibly satisfying as it allows me to pass on decades of knowledge and experience which may otherwise be overlooked in modern day media. And the friendships made are long term and profound.

When you are looking for a mentor for yourself, what qualities do you look for?

Wendy: I look for age, experience, openness and warmth. Mentors are emotional rocks for those encountering inevitable bumps in business for the first time and should be approachable and caring, always.

What can a mentor do to make sure that both the mentor and mentee are able to make the most of that relationship?

Wendy: They should talk openly and often. Honesty is paramount on both sides. There is no use just saying “oh well, that’s bad luck” when someone is suffering, or the mentee being too embarrassed to admit they need help. Mentoring is about teaching mentees to avoid obstacles and, when they are immovable, how to navigate around them.

What are some of the most important lessons/pieces of wisdom you have learned from a mentor? And what makes them so important?

Abby: I think one lesson that really stands out for me is boundaries. This is something that Wendy really instilled in me, and still reminds me of to this very day. Working hard, for a good reason, is important. But so is taking time out for yourself, and even when you are just getting started in your career, it is okay to do both.

Being a mentee has also helped me to understand the importance of making the most of important connections. You have the opportunity to learn so much from a mentor, but part of that is being prepared. Think about what you want to ask, being mindful of your mentor’s time and ensuring that you are asking them about topics that they have experience in are really beneficial.

When you get the opportunity to be a mentor to someone, what sort of mentor would you like to be?

Abby: I would like to be open, kind, non-judgemental and generous. I think one of the best things that I have been given by my mentors is a space where I can discuss things and not be judged - plus I get some great advice to boot. We all make mistakes in work and life sometimes, and having someone you can go to and not have to worry about what they will think or say is really comforting.

What can a mentee do to make sure that both the mentor and the mentee can make the most of that relationship?

Abby: I think a genuine interest and curiosity in your industry, and your mentor, is crucial. Being a mentor takes a lot more time and effort than people realise, and you want to spend that time on someone who is interested, driven, passionate and values your time. Also, take the time to update your mentor on the emerging trends in your industry - just because you have less industry experience, doesn’t meant you can’t teach them something, too.

About Wendy:

Wendy Squires has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, starting her career at News Ltd as a cadet journalist before working her way up to magazines and television.

She has been the editor of CLEO and Australian Style magazines and held senior roles on Who Weekly, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Madison and Woman’s Day. In 2009 her novel, The Boys’ Club, was published, based on her year as the Publicity Director at Network Nine.

Today, she writes a syndicated opinion column for The Age, freelances for many magazines and websites, appears as a commentator on Sky News and ghost authors biographies for PanMacmillan. Wendy is also writing her second novel, teaching journalism and working as a PR consultant. You can connect with Wendy here.

About Abby:

Abby Alexander is the Media & Communications Coordinator for Women & Leadership Australia. Prior to that, she studied PR at RMIT. Her writing has appeared on Ten Daily, Sydney Morning Herald, Mamamia, Women's Agenda and Show & Tell Online. You can connect with Abby here.

About the Expert Mentoring Program:

The Expert Mentor Program has been designed to assist current and aspiring mentors to maximise their approach, in order to provide meaningful professional and personal growth to their mentees. The EMP will provide participants with a dynamic, peer learning experience which is highly collaborative and responsive. The program is delivered online over one full day. The day is broken up into three high-impact, live sessions with breaks in-between. Each session is designed to foster rich dialogue and debate between participants and facilitators. Participants will also be provided with a digital workbook to support their learning.

Have you ever been in a mentor/mentee relationship and would like to share your tips? Let us know in the comments!