September 24, 2021 I by Michael Santander

Be Open to Mentorship

I recently crossed my two-decade mark in the industry and feel good about my career. I like meeting new people, but I’m not the best at networking during trade shows. While I’m open to change and growth, I like where I’m at and what I do. I don’t really need another person’s input. What would they even advise me on? They don’t know me.

This was my mindset a little over a year ago as I filled out the online form to sign up for the NAMM YP Mentorship Program. I wasn’t exactly sure how someone would give me meaningful advice without really knowing me — or my job — on a personal level. I had no idea the benefits that were waiting for me, and I hope that by sharing my experience you’ll be inspired to seek out a mentorship of your own.

In the NAMM YP Mentorship Program, a younger person in the industry gets paired with an MI veteran. Having never officially taken part in anything like this before, I was determined to make the most of it.

I was introduced to my mentor via a Zoom call. We said hello, made some small talk and connected on a few topics. Then I said I would jot down some thoughts and we’d schedule a monthly call and see what happened. Seemed easy enough. A week before our first scheduled call, I sent an email with some generic questions I was currently dealing with in my job: How do you manage certain personalities in the workplace? What are your best suggestions for staying motivated?

That’s how it started but along the way I found something so much more than the formalities of the program and process. Conversations became less rigid and forced with every month. We began to share more about our work and personal lives and found more connections and topics to discuss. Sometimes it was like having a therapist in the industry — someone I could vent my workplace frustrations to. They would listen and calmly guide me through a possible solution. When our conversations would drift from work and a little more into our lives outside our stores, it was like having a life coach of sorts. I was humbled by my mentor’s patience and willingness to make time for me.

While the conversation had become more comfortable, I still went into each of our calls with an agenda. I always had some topics and situations that I knew I wanted to talk about. Once we started it was easy. Our monthly evening one-hour meetings often became two-hour meetings as we continued telling stories and bouncing ideas back and forth.

Over this past year, my mentor talked me through quarantine, reopening one of our retail stores and closing another, buying my first home, weathering a change in ownership, implementing a company-wide rebrand and so much more. My mentor’s guidance, experience and outside perspective became so incredibly valuable to me.

Life can be strange and unpredictable. The last year has proven that to most of us. Having a mentor to give me honest, blunt and kind advice gave me the confidence to make some very big life and career decisions.

I officially completed my one-year mentorship program this summer, but now I have a new friend to bump into at The NAMM Show, and someone outside my business who will listen when I need to talk shop.

Will every mentorship be as successful as mine? Of course not. There will be times that you try and try, but just don’t connect with a person and that’s OK. You move on. But what you can’t do is say, “That’s not for me.” That’s what I’d said for years, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. There are a lot of ways to do it and while taking part in a specific program isn’t necessary, it may help you find a mentor or mentee. Either way, it is important to take that next step and find a new friend in the industry. Become a mentor or a mentee. Our industry is full of passionate and creative people, and great things happen when we take the time to talk and help each other. MI

Michael Santander is general manager of Instrumental Music Center in Tucson, Arizona, and a member of NAMM YP.

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