Mentoring Memphis’ Next Gen
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The Memphis Business Journal’s Next Gen program was created to recognize and connect the leaders of tomorrow – brilliant high school students from around the Mid-South. Wilson PR Founder + CEO Beth Wilson was honored to serve as a mentor for the program again this year.

The goal is that students walk away from the Next Gen experience with a broader perspective and deeper appreciation of the
economic landscape and opportunities around them. Honorees represent a variety of public and private schools in the area.

What Beth had to say:

What is your go-to advice to give high school-age mentees?

My go-to advice for mentees – really anyone, at any age – is to never stop learning. This is a motto I live by, and it has kept me motivated, curious, and willing and open to trying new things. This includes developing new skills, knowing how and when to adapt, mastering emotions, and uncovering personal beliefs and core values along the way.

Learning is truly a never-ending journey. By observing and experiencing new things, our perspective broadens, thereby challenging and expanding our understanding and the way in which we see the world.

One of my favorite quotes is from Walt Disney. He said, “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” I do not subscribe to the idea of regret and tend to lean into gratitude for the lessons learned. And so far, it has served me well.

What was a great question you were asked by a Next Gen mentee, and what was your answer?

One of her questions was: When did you know you wanted to launch your own company, and how did you go about doing that?

I absolutely loved her questions, this one in particular. I feel there was always an urge in me to launch my own business. That was fueled by encouragement from my former boss and mentor, William Pretsch, as well as my time going through the EMBA program at the University of Memphis. I quickly realized PR agency life was my path, so I decided to pursue that. I learned valuable lessons and insights throughout my career and various roles, as well as from the confidants I entrusted and obtained guidance from along the way. And then my time with the CO.STARTERS program through Epicenter helped me solidify my business plan. I was fortunate
to have a supportive partner at the time – my late husband, Brent – who was there to encourage and assist on several things, from business operations to accounting and more. Ultimately, it was a huge leap of faith. It’s also one that I take great pride in and am extremely grateful for, as it has given my life tremendous purpose.

What makes a great mentor?

A great mentor must have a willingness to share their expertise. It’s nice if that willingness is backed by enthusiasm for sharing said knowledge, too. They must be active listeners and possess strong communication skills (e.g., articulating ideas clearly, sharing freely, and providing constructive feedback). Between the mentor and mentee, there must be mutual respect, trust, shared values, and again, good communication. Empathy and patience are important characteristics for mentors as well, as they enable mentors to see things from the mentee’s perspective. A mentor must also be accessible and available to their mentee, willing
to invest time and effort into the mentoring relationship, and above all, supportive and encouraging.

Effective mentoring is a two-way street, and both the mentor and mentee contribute to the success of the relationship. Open communication, mutual respect, and a commitment to learning are essential elements for a great mentoring experience.

Learn more about the Memphis Business Journal’s Next Gen program.