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Functional Mentorships Dilemma: The Industry Needs Marketing Specific Mentorship

Mentorship programs are a powerful tool to fortify the talent pipeline. But what happens when underrepresented groups lack access to industry expertise and mentors? And what is the role of industry in ensuring that the talent pipeline has the technical and soft skills, experience and networks needed to be successful in marketing? In conjunction with the AEF we explored these topics and more, along with three recommendations to close the gap in mentorship.

While general professional mentorships are helpful, the lack of mentors with specific marketing expertise often leaves emerging talent frustrated as they stumble through vast landscapes of marketing to find the best fit.


Mentorship programs are a powerful tool to fortify the talent pipeline and more
As the industry becomes more complex and competitive, having a mentor with functional experience in marketing enhances talent acquisition and the overall organizational culture. Specifically for underrepresented groups, mentorship can help educate and prepare emerging talent for common career obstacles and build resilience that keeps them in the industry.

 “Mentoring relationships enable everyone, as a collective, to share their insights, which can then help inform their business decisions, how we make and manage policies and how we manage organizational change” – Ellen Ormesher “Helping Hands: the real value of mentorship in the ad industry”

Mentoring programs boosted minority representation at the management level from 9% to 24% Naz Beheshti “Improve Workplace Culture With A Strong Mentoring Program”

As well as promotion and retention rates for minorities and women from 15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees Naz Beheshti “Improve Workplace Culture With A Strong Mentoring Program

Underrepresented groups often turn to friends and family for career advice, but rarely find the marketing specific guidance they need to navigate obstacles.

Underrepresented groups in particular value the motivation and support they receive from friends and family, however, more than moral support is required when determining the technical and soft skills, experience and networks needed to be successful in marketing.

Emerging talent needs an example of what a “day in the life” of specific marketing professionals look like, what skills are needed for a specific role, what experience makes a strong resume, and how to highlight their strengths during an interview for the respective role.


When only generic mentorship is available, many emerging talent professionals find the advice too general to help their circumstances, leading them to under-utilize their mentors.


83% of Gen Z want to learn skills to perform better in their current position Mark C Perna “Why Skill And Career Advancement Are The Way To Gen-Z’s Heart”

87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence – Liz Dimock “New UK research: Mentoring is improving gender balance in organization”

Identifying mentors with the right experience is a key barrier for emerging talent

Our research has shown that finding mentors across the spectrum of marketing specialties is difficult, but essential in exposing emerging talent to the broad range of roles that exist within the industry.

One marketing professor noted, “if I need a mentor for a particular marketing area of expertise, I often have to begin searching as much as a year in advance to find someone with the right expertise in the time needed.” 

Further, marketing roles have changed and many of the traditional roles have migrated into data science, engagement, and customer experience professionals who may have trained outside of traditional marketing programs and are therefore not connected through academia.


Recommendations to close the gap in mentorship

While mentorship can fortify emerging talent pipelines, there are several steps the industry can take to make mentors and the education they provide easier to find.

  1. Earlier and Broader Outreach – Our research has shown that emerging talent often forms intent for the marketing industry before college, and many modern marketing training programs are non-matriculating and not associated with colleges and universities. Broadening outreach to professional programs and earlier secondary education could provide clarity for the many students who decide on a career in marketing before college.
  2. Self-Service Education Resources – Providing on-demand self-service resources where emerging talent can get smart quickly on the marketing landscape and the variety of roles and services that comprise modern marketing.
  3. Support and promote Mentorship Networks Building a larger marketing network across industry employees and promoting the accessibility of academia as a resource for non-industry professionals and students will help emerging talent from other fields and disciplines learn how to connect to marketing professionals for questions.