Have you ever asked another promotional products professional how they got into the industry? If not, you are missing out on some great stories!

No two are the same, other than that they have generally stumbled upon it by luck or by accident. Unless you grew up in a family-owned promo business, most of us did not aspire to work in this industry as children. As we celebrate this month’s Rising Stars, it’s a great time to reflect on the influence each of us has on both recruiting new people to the industry and enriching the lives of the young people who have given promotional products a chance.

At the recent PPAI Women’s Leadership Conference, the topic of mentors and sponsors was a recurring theme among the speakers. They emphasized that neither role requires one to be a business owner or manager—just someone who has knowledge to share (a mentor) or is willing to speak well on behalf of someone else to an influential person (a sponsor).

During the course of my 34 years in this industry, I’ve enjoyed the benefit of many mentors and sponsors both within and outside of my organization. They’ve been peers, competitors, managers, suppliers, and other volunteers.

There is a clear line between the support I received and the success I have had, so I seek to pay it forward whenever I can. Here are some simple sponsoring and mentoring actions you can do that take five minutes or less:

Send an email to your contact’s supervisor, congratulating your contact on their attention to detail, prompt communications, or other act that caused the order or project to go smoothly.

Recommend someone to provide a quote for an article, speak on a panel or participate in a project.

Nominate a peer for an award.

Tag and congratulate someone on LinkedIn if you see their name in a flattering post or article, or if you know they contributed to the project being highlighted.
If you worked on a fun project or gained some new and interesting industry knowledge, share it with your social network. The fun project may inspire someone to seek employment within the industry, and the new knowledge you gained may give someone else a leg up.

When we shine the light on our promo stars, we brighten the whole sky and become a beacon for talent looking for a home. Take a few minutes out of your day to shine a little light on someone doing a great job or share something new you’ve learned.

You’ll make someone’s day and may get a little stardust on your sleeve.

Dawn Olds, MAS+, is the PPAI Board Chair