Presented by Riverside
The Mentor Dilemma
A podcast mentor’s value is high, and deservedly so. Being a markedly friendly industry, many of your favorite podcasters, producers, and writers are more than willing to talk with you and offer advice (places like The Podcast Academy offer a stacked bench of potential mentors).
The flipside is mentors are often time-deprived. If you’re experiencing arthritis of hope from crossing your fingers, there’s another way forward.
Enter stage left: the internet.
Some of the industry’s best advice and relatable anecdotes are available in blogs, interviews, YouTube videos, Transom.org—any of the countless resources available to guide you right here, right now.
Don’t pull creative punches because you’re waiting on “the right mentor.” The truth is: They’re waiting on you. Will you find them?
Signal Flow: Kathy Doyle
Industry game changers and valiant minds from other creative professions share their wisdom, adversities, and paths to innovation.
Kathy Doyle is an industry veteran who led the podcast networks at Big 5 Book Publisher Macmillan for more than a decade. She now serves as an executive advisor to podcast networks such as Health Unmuted and CurtCo Media and is the podcast consultant for the nonprofit Hire Heroes USA.
I started my career in television when I was 22. This was at an NBC station. And there was one woman in particular who was the lead anchor on the six o'clock news. I was so excited about the chance to learn from her, she was a total journalistic rock star in that market. And she was also an incredible bully. It stayed with me in a very deep and personal way and has led to me being overly responsible when it comes to supporting professionals starting their career in this business.
That bad experience led me to become a mentor, to be someone who always says yes to informational interviews and how-to-get-started calls. It’s really important to me to help and support people coming into their careers and get them excited about all of the incredible opportunities. Because a lot of this industry is relationships and collaborations.
Being a mentor gives me a sense of pride. I have been so fortunate in my career that I'm able to give back in a way that helps inspire the next generation of people who will carry this industry through to its next phase.
My mentor is Tom Baker, he was the original co-publisher of the Wall Street Journal Online. I worked for him when I was at Dow Jones many years ago. His thoughtful approach to leadership and ability to respond with a clear mind to challenges taught me a lot. I think if you ask for guidance and advice in a polite and positive way that makes it convenient for that person, they’ll want to help and support you.
I don't think people should be shy about reaching out to someone they admire in the industry and developing a relationship with them. That’s how Sarah van Mosel and I got to be great friends. I totally fangirled her back when she was at Radiotopia around 10 years ago. I invited her to the Flatiron Building in New York (where I was working for Macmillan) to visit our team because I was incredibly impressed with the work she was doing in the early days of this industry.
Don’t go into a mentorship looking to take up a tremendous amount of their time. I think you start out slowly and just ask for an informational interview. People just wanting to get into the space would be surprised at how many podcasting professionals are willing to do that.
Look at a mentor/mentee relationship in a nonlinear way where it’s mutually beneficial. Just like any relationship, it has to be collaborative and not one-sided. Ask your mentor if you can volunteer at an event they're running – or if you can beta test a new feature if they work for one of the platforms. I firmly believe this industry above many others is all about the relationships we build and the great care we take of each other to get the best results possible.
I think it's really great when a mentee comes back and says, “Hey, you know, the guidance you gave me for that upcoming interview really helped me and I nailed the job,” or even “I didn't get the job.” That feedback loop is important.
I think it's important that we as creators reach out to other creators to let them know when something they do has the intended impact. I actually did that recently with a podcast called Weight for It. It's about Ronald Young Jr.’s journey with his body, with weight, and issues of navigating that world with relationships, with parents with family, the whole ball of wax. And I just fell hard for it. I reached out to him, sent him a really long email with all the things that I loved about the show, just to say I thought for so many people, it's incredibly relatable. And I just love that he created this show. He put himself out there in a way that I hadn't seen before.
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Sound School Podcast
Ira Glass of This American Life once said “Rob Rosenthal is, arguably, the best radio teacher in the country.” I’d have to agree. Rob brings a sense of insightful calm, peeling back the audio production curtain with stories that spark the mind and inspire the ear.
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Until next time, have a bold week.
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