Why Mentors are CRUCIAL and How They've Shaped the Woman I Am

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If you don’t have a mentor, you’re not alone. Many people, even some top executives I know, don’t have them. I don’t ascribe to the theory of doing it on your own. I actually just don’t believe that’s possible. You may be able to do something on your own, but is it as good as it could have been if you had more eyeballs and more perspective to help you shape it?

Kelli Tennant talks why mentors are CRUCIAL and how they have helped shape the woman she’s become today in this blog post of The Platform

When I was first starting out in television, everyone (my family and friends) kept telling me how good I was. You guys. I was AWFUL. I made all those YouTube videos from 2005-2013 private for a reason. It’s so embarrassing. I was awkward, sometimes made no sense, lacked energy, looked robotic, and WHAT was I thinking with my clothes and hair? It’s scary. Anyway, all that aside, I wasn’t getting any actual feedback that was constructive. When I met one of my first mentors, I was completely knocked down. Sean Farnham, an analyst for ESPN, was at Fox Sports West at the time. I was introduced to him at about 20 years old. He was kind enough to let me send him my tape and the response was nothing short of BRUTAL. It basically said “you’re all kinds of terrible but I’m willing to help you.” Talk about a humbling experience.

Sean became one of the most critical people in my life and career. He gave me incredible feedback on my energy, voice, tone, and content and it allowed me to implement things every day that would slowly but surely improve everything I did. He wasn’t afraid to hurt my feelings because he saw potential but also knew the value of what he was doing. I also wasn’t really sensitive in a way many people are to this. I am pretty coachable when it comes to my work and I love feedback so I can be better. If you attack it like an athlete watching game film you’ll be much more successful.

The second mentor I had took on a very different role. She had the job I aspired to have and when I met her, I was so awestruck. I thought Lindsay Rhodes walked on water, and still to this day, get nervous talking to her or seeing her because I just think she is so special. We met when I was assigned to shadow her at WSU for a football game. She was the pregame host and sideline reporter and I was supposed to follow her around and learn all the tricks. She literally took me by the hand, walked me to every coach, every important player, showed me how she prepped for the show, told me how to ask questions and answered everything I wanted to know. There was not an ounce of pride or insecurity out of her. She came with all the love and support in the world for a young girl just starting out. Lindsay was also featured as a guest on my podcast if you want to tune in and learn more about our relationship and experiences together in television and sports broadcasting!

Lindsay Rhodes, Kelli Tennant’s first mentor in television and first idol in sports broadcasting, sits down with Kelli Tennant on The Platform Podcast.

Fast forward, and over the past 10 years, she has been my first phone call when my career felt like it was hitting a dead end or if something happened and I needed a trusted guide to help me problem solve. She has never pretended like she had all the answers, but she was always willing to talk me through what I was feeling and share her own experiences or those of colleagues to shed some light and make me feel like I wasn’t alone. Mentors can look very different for everyone. I have chosen to surround myself with honest people who challenge me and uplift me in difficult times. People who may not just give me the answer but guide me toward what the right thing is for me. I now work really hard to provide that for young people who ask for their own guidance. And what I’ve learned from both Sean and Lindsay is that honesty is always important for growth and taking care of young women and helping them succeed is one of the most important and powerful things I can do.

If you’re looking for your own mentor, it can start as simply as finding someone you have a connection with that is open to having these kinds of conversations. Ask them to get coffee or send them an email with specific questions. Don’t expect a miracle overnight, but putting yourself out there and being willing to listen to someone and really learn from their experiences can be exactly what you need to get to that next level.