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The Value of a Mentor

by John McCurdy

(1/10/2013) As the saying goes, sometimes you dont realize the value of something until its gone. Or in my case, someone. Ive had a long, rewarding and profitable career in the radio business. Its what I wanted to do from a very young age. However, if it werent for one of the most important mentors in my life, I might still be bagging groceries at Ideal Market in Boulder, Colorado!

Finding a mentor can take a lot of work and persistence; but believe me, its worth it to be able to receive guidance, direction and opportunity from someone who has already scaled the ladderor at least is on the way up. A mentor can give you that elusive break into the business (whatever business you choose) that you strive to be involved in, and successful in.

My first mentor and the one who gave me not just my first break, but my second and third, was Rusty Shaffer. Rustys family ran the classic mom and pop radio stations in Boulder, an AM/FM combination. Rusty was really more like an idol to me, as I would listen to him broadcast local sports. The AM, KBOL, started in the late 1940s. By the 80s the Shaffers had sold the FM to a company that would move it to the Denver market. In 1992 Rusty sold KBOL and made a career change to the banking business. After a few owners attempted to revive KBOL, the station went dark. Its pretty tough running a stand-alone AM just 30 minutes from a major market.

KBOL had its glory days, serving the Boulder community with news, local sports and public affairs. Being in a college town (the University of Colorado), there was never a lack of events to cover. All I ever wanted to do was be a sports broadcaster, and Rusty gave me my first break when I was a senior in high school, helping to produce KBOLS local sports talk show following CU football games. I worked part-time for the station all through college, when Rusty gave me break #2 and the chance to go on-air and co-host the show. After college I worked in a small market, and then came break #3 when Rusty gave me the chance to return to Boulder as KBOLs Sports Director. The job of my dreams.

If you a reading this and working to get started in your career, do what you can to find a mentor, latch on and dont let go. Thank them profusely, be grateful for what they will do for you, and dont be afraid to ask for the chance to take on new responsibilities. If you are a veteran of the business, look up that mentor that helped you those many years agothank them, and always be grateful for what they did for you!

A couple of months ago for some reason I decided to go online to the Boulder newspapers website, and found out that Rusty Shaffer had died after a very short illness. He was only 63. It was a punch in the gut, but Im grateful that I could attend the memorial service and stand up to tell his family and friends what he meant to me and my career. My only regret is that I never had the chance to say that to Rusty.

Find a mentor. Thank a mentor. Youll never regret it!

John McCurdy works for Emmis in Indianapolis and can be reached directly via e-mail at