Mentorship as a Path to Success and Inspiration

By Nada Sneige Fuleihan on Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Mentorship is a relationship that we have all experienced at one point in our lives. We can all think of a time when we were informally mentored by a family member, a caring peer, or more formally by a teacher, professor, advisor, or a senior colleague. Mentoring a person involves listening to their needs, aspirations, and goals and giving experienced advice to bring clarity and purpose to their plans. First and foremost, it is a caring and supportive action to help a person progress and succeed in a new situation in their life or career. Mentoring also impacts the general field or profession in which the mentee is seeking to develop because they move into their paths well prepared to contribute in their own way. In that sense, mentoring is a form of leadership and a source of great personal reward and inspiration for both participants in the relationship.

Mentorship is indeed a powerful relationship that is proving to be instrumental in the success of a well-launched plan and the building of healthy communities in the workplace. Mentorship programs are increasingly sought out as valuable support in all kinds of organizations, from educational institutions and non-profit organizations to corporate and financial institutions. Through formal or informal programs, this relationship's benefits effectively create an inclusive culture and a sense of purpose and belonging in all work communities.

The publishing field is one area where mentorship programs can be precious to those entering the industry. Publishing has the power of impacting culture on a large scale through the production of books and media content. Mentoring is a great practice to ensure that publishing is open to all voices and provides the needed support for newcomers to succeed. There are many mentorship programs in publishing with a variety of objectives and approaches that a quick online search can yield.

However, regardless of the differences in focus or mentoring methods, all mentorship programs foster inclusion by ushering in and supporting newcomers during their adjustment and exploration process. Mentorship is the perfect way to consolidate and validate any options that you may be considering for your career path.

Chicago Women in Publishing's mentorship program is a benefit available to all its members. Through the years, it is a program that has provided the opportunity for members to connect one-on-one with a colleague in the organization to receive or share advice on their career plans and goals. CWIP's mentorship program aims to foster values of inclusion and collegiality for its members and provide a valuable resource to deepen their knowledge and forge relationships in the editing and publishing networks. What distinguishes the CWIP mentorship program is the close connection between the participants and the frequent engagement of participants in the CWIP committees to keep the organization running.

As director of the mentorship program, I enjoyed mentoring Bernadette Fortuna, who had newly joined CWIP. At that time, Bernadette was completing her course requirements at the University Of Chicago Editing Certificate Program. She signed up as a mentee to supplement what she was learning in her editing classes. "I wanted a concrete avenue to learn how to pursue freelance work. The mentoring I received paid off. I was accepted as a freelance editor by a university press and placed on reserve by a couple more. I received my first book edit contract in October 2020."

Although CWIP's mentorship does not guarantee job contracts, it is possible sometimes that it results in an actual job. As Bernadette's mentor and having myself gone through the Editing Certificate program a few years before, I felt a great sense of reward when I learned that she got her first book editing contract soon after the program ended. Bernadette remained in touch and decided to volunteer to be my co-director in the program this year.

It could be a coincidence, but another participant in CWIP's mentorship program also became a board member in that same year. Sherryl Brown, the current vice president of CWIP, was also a new member when she applied to the mentorship program as a mentee. . Sherryl was looking for advice to prepare her manuscripts for publishing. Her mentor, Kim Bookless, past CWIP president and freelance publishing consultant and editor, guided her to achieve publication of her book on public education.

"Kim and I stayed in touch with each other on a regular basis either by email or by phone and she always responded right away when I had a question.[..] The most valuable element of our frequent contacts was that Kim took time to listen to my recounting of what I had experienced previously trying to get manuscripts published. She explained to me the realities of the publishing industry today and why traditional companies are reluctant to look at the work of unpublished writers."

It was a similar experience with CWIP's mentorship that motivated me to volunteer as Director of Mentorship. I was a new CWIP member transitioning into freelance work a few years ago when the director Jeff Fleischer paired me with my mentor, Marian Mangoubi, who helped me successfully think of ways to build my network and promote my skills. In my turn, I later mentored other members looking for similar help in growing their network and advancing their skills. I felt a strong motivation to step in and keep the program going when the mentorship director position was open.

The most important thing to remember is that mentorship is a reciprocal relationship that benefits both mentors and mentees. Mentorship does not work without members volunteering as mentors. As mentors, the most obvious reward is helping others and discovering or validating latent talent. It is like watering a flower to bloom. But mentors also benefit from other aspects such as expanding their professional network, validating their own skills through the mentoring experience, and receiving recognition for their time and generosity.

We all have experience that can be useful to someone. Mentorship does not have to be a hierarchical structure in which expertise and knowledge are passed vertically in a top-down fashion. There is great value in peer mentoring when two colleagues pair up to motivate each other and provide accountability to each other, just like there is equal value in "reverse mentoring," when younger mentors help more senior colleagues familiarize themselves with new trends and concepts or technologies.

Mentoring is a beautiful relationship based on looking out for others and supporting them while developing their plans and working toward their goals. Both mentors and mentees get equal benefits and tap into a sustainable network for the future of the profession they love.

We encourage you to look at CWIP's mentorship program page and consider participating both as a mentor or a mentee. The mentees' application and information form for mentors are both available to download on the mentorship page.

For any question, please email


Nada Sneige Fuleihan Director of mentorship,

Bernadette Fortuna, co-director of mentorship,

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