by Sally Ekus | Featured Contributor
There is an editor who works in a tall tower in NYC with whom I had my very first pitch meeting. I will never forget how nervous I was seated at a big table in a chilly conference room, every click of a keyboard from the cubicles down the hall ratcheting up my anxiety. I pitched our authors and braced for immediate rejection. Instead this editor kindly, gently, and brilliantly explained what was of interest and why and what didn’t suit their list. To this day, I value the notes and conversations shared with me from editorial and acquisitions meetings. I can guarantee I am a better agent today because my very first editor meeting was so positive, educational, and even fun.
Mentors are the sh*t, seriously. If you don’t have one, you need one (or three). Mentors help with all kinds of things. Career advice? Check! Life and relationships throwing curve balls atchya? Check! Need another perspective on a professional challenge? Check! In my opinion, good mentors are essential to being constantly challenged, continually growing, supporting your successes, and enjoying the ride along the way.
In a world where I am often expected to keep a straight face, present myself professionally, and be a source of support for my authors, I sometimes tire of always keeping it together. I long for a person I can turn to and share my fears, insecurities, and ask questions. Do you ever feel that way too?
Mentors provide a unique space to be vulnerable and inquisitive.
Without intentionally seeking them out, I have acquired a roster of mentors that inspire, teach, and challenge me. They can come in many forms so do your best to find a few people who have some, or all of the following characteristics:
- Brilliant and innovative
- Honest and trustworthy
- Experienced and well-respected in the industry
- Willingness to teach and share expertise
- Able to challenge you and provide constructive feedback
- Values the mentor/mentee relationship—committed to being a mentor
Where can you find mentors? Look around. Ask yourself who took the time to talk with you at a recent conference? Who follows your work and congratulates you? Who asks you the tough questions and then sticks around as you work through the answers?
I am lucky enough to count a handful of friends and colleagues as mentors: an established editor who has been in the business for years and still takes the time to teach me about finding the theme in the content, a husband and wife restaurateur duo who have helped to cultivate patience and confidence in myself, and a career coach that I call on from time-to-time.
Mentors have opened doors for me when I couldn’t even find the doorknob. They have helped with everything from running multiple marathons and raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity to moving on from personal relationships and finding confidence in my career and approach as an agent.
And my biggest mentor? Of course it’s my mom/boss. I certainly never would be celebrating the success of my budding career without her guidance in this industry and in life. Little did I know I was being mentored before I was old enough to even stand on my own two feet.
So, if you find yourself bored, frustrated, scared, or yearning for more, I highly suggest seeking out a mentor of your own. Or, if you find your job rewarding, exciting, and challenging, you are in a great position to find a mentor to guide you to new levels. And, don’t forget to pass the mentoring along. You also have valuable insight to teach, so find an open mind and get together for a chat.
Who knows, the next time you find yourself in a chilly conference room, it may be just the conversation that changes your life!
Sally Ekus, Agency Manager and Literary Agent, joined The Lisa Ekus Group in 2009. She represents a wide range of culinary talent, from first-time cookbook authors to seasoned chefs, professional food writers, bloggers, and television personalities. Sally loves being the liaison between an author and their publisher. She takes great pride in guiding authors towards their dreams of publication. From concept to contract, she has brokered more than forty book deals.
After graduating from Ithaca College, Sally worked in the mental health field. An unexpected turn of events, and some great food along the way, led her to return to New England (Massachusetts) to join her mother, Lisa Ekus, in the eponymous family business. Sally often credits her formal training in listening, communication, and negotiation in the mental health field as her foundation for success with her authors.
As part of the first official culinary delegation, Sally has made two trips to Vietnam where she cultivated a deep love of phở. Sally spends what little free time she has cooking spicy food and running marathons. She is a dedicated supporter and advocate for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and especially their Team in Training program.
The Lisa Ekus Group is a full-service culinary agency, the only agency of its kind to offer Public Relations, Media Training, Literary and Talent agency services, as well as Career Consulting, all within the culinary realm.