For big dreamers and visionaries, snagging someone to bring you under their wing for is an ideal goal to have. I serve on the board of directors for a mentorship program, so I've seen firsthand the positive effects of mentorship in a young person's life. Never having one myself growing up, the benefits of having an experienced person lead me towards my professional development would have resulted in accomplishments happening sooner than later for me.
When I started blogging and my vision for what I wanted to do as a writer shifted and expanded, the need to have someone act as my advisor was necessary. Starting out in almost any field is a struggle, as we live in a world where people aren't always open enough to help another or ask for help to begin with. Where everyone “has it all together," I knew that I was far from where I wanted to be and needed someone already planted in the world I wanted to be in to teach me the in's and out's of writing. Myleik Teele says mentors are usually someone “who helps you in a certain aspect of your life and grooms you." I needed serious grooming.
I was a follower of one woman's work for about two years and reached out to her via Twitter one day to tell her I admired her and her gift for writing. I shared her posts whenever she wrote something new and left feedback to show that I actually read it and that it resonated with me. Subsequently, I extended an invite to her to attend my first annual blog brunch where I and other bloggers in the area would get together to talk openly about the things that not only bind us together as writers, but more so, as women. The things that I did leading up to me asking her to join in–conversing with her and asking questions in 140 characters, and sharing her work with my own growing network–resulted in her actually coming to my event. I questioned how I, a small-time blogger, landed an established journalist to come to my event. The answer was, I was falling into the mentee role without realizing it.
Long story short, from that one event and the honest conversations about the common factors that brought us together (the love of writing and womanhood), emerged an organic mentorship. I didn't ask her to be the one to guide me into my budding writing career, nor did she advise I follow her leadership. It just happened.
Nola Hennessy, founder and CEO of Serenidad Consulting, believes “a good mentor will guide, not advise; inspire, not motivate; critique, not judge; and share ideas and options, but not do it for you. The mentee must be willing to open up to new ideas, act on guidance given, [and] be prepared to adapt and change." All of these have worked for my own mentoring relationship and those I witness in my program.
My mentor, Bené Viera, and I teamed up to give our thoughts on mentorship, including the do's and don'ts of acquiring a mentor, and tips you can follow to hopefully have that role model take you in under their wing.
Rule #1: Don't Ask Someone To Be Your Mentor
Bené Viera speaks on letting things fall into place saying, “Don't ask someone to be your mentor. Mentorship happens naturally. People that believe in your work will invest in you if a genuine relationship has already been built."
On top of not asking someone outright to be your mentor, don't ask the people you look up to what you should do, but instead, what they did. Scooter Braun, the manager behind Justin Bieber, spoke on his own ideas of what mentorship is saying:
“There is this richness in history and the wisdom that comes from experience that trumps any kind of smarts. To me that's what mentorship is: drawing from that wisdom."
If you're looking for top-notch leadership that'll help you with your own goals, ask questions–tons of them–and pick apart what you think will work for you knowing that someone was once in your position, along wit, the methods that worked or didn't for them. Actress and co-creator of 2 Broke Girls, Whitney Cummings, spoke on the power of mentorship, saying:
“You can look at them [mentors] and the choices they make and that inspires you to make choices unique to you. A mentor shouldn't just be someone you emulate, because then you'd be a carbon copy and that's not original. It's someone who inspires you to be the best version of yourself."
Rule #2: Put In Your Own Work In Your Career First
Bené and I clicked right away because we had something to talk about from the jump–her work and my own. When we finally met in person at my event, there wasn't that awkward, what do I say now moment because there was something that connected us from the conversations we had online. The importance in getting a mentor lies in being someone who is actively building a career, with a portfolio (big or small) to show and prove.
Bené says in the beginning, “I'd suggest people not get so caught up in having mentors and instead just do the work. When seeking a mentor, you should already be on a career-track that a mentor can easily point to the work you've already put in."
Also, (and this is pretty obvious), your mentor's career should mirror that of your own path and ultimate goals. In order to gain the professional insight you're looking for, it's best to chose someone already making moves in your desired field.
Rule #3: Know That Having A Mentor Is A Give & Take Relationship
Myleik Teele advises mentees to not be greedy and remember the give and take rules, as well as, understand that “mentorship is not a life vest." My mentor points out mentorship being a reciprocal relationship and recommends checking in often, outside of needing career advice.
“No one wants to feel like they're being used because their mentee contacts them every other week to put out fires and never hears from their mentee otherwise. It's draining, and makes the mentor feel used."
My mentor and I have actually switched roles in the past and that's strengthened our relationship as mentor/mentee and as friends. My advice is to take the relationship beyond the phone and meet regularly in-person, as face-to-face contact isn't much of the norm in communication thanks to technological advancements. Besides, don't you want to see the person helping you along in your journey frequently? Be ready to put in just as much work as your mentor to make the relationship work and last.
There's tons of quality information on questions you should ask before choosing a mentor, to tricks on being a good mentor that'll add to the mentoring relationship. Find what's right for you and best of luck getting someone you admire to be your mentor!
Have a mentor? Let us know how you two connected in the comment section below!
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