Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. Daniel J. Boorstin
There is an important piece of life that many people may disagree with me on: you can’t do it alone. There, I’ve said it. I’m as independent as the next fellow, but I haven’t done everything I’ve accomplished so far in my life without the help of those around me. Throughout my life I have looked up to a lot of people. My parents, teachers, coaches, other adults and peers influenced my life heavily. Whether they knew it or not they all mentored me and helped me become who I am today by being mentors to me.
Why do you need a mentor?
A mentor can help you see the world differently. They may have been in your shoes before and had the exact same problem that you are having. They can give you advice on a topic that you are just learning about or they can show you something you are missing on a project you are working on. Don’t underestimate the power of another set of eyes when you are stuck on something.
What should you talk about?
Talk about what you can’t or won’t talk about with anyone else in your social circle. If your mentor isn’t at the same company as you, tell them about what you like and don’t like about your job. Ask them for advice on how to handle difficult people or tough situations. Ask them what they would do differently if they could start stages of their life over again.
Make it a Two-Way Street
What a mentor can do for you is not the only important part of the connection. It is just as imperative that you help your mentor too. Make the friendship real. If you just call upon your mentor when you need a job or advice, the relationship will likely deteriorate. I’ve had formal mentors through programs at work or school that I took for granted. I didn’t fully appreciate them or take the time to develop the relationship we had. I am so far removed from them now it would be difficult to rekindle the relationship we once had. Show your mentors that you are thankful for their time and effort. Keep working at building the bonds and you can develop a strong network of mentors.
How to Find a Mentor
Look at your place of employment or school that you attend for formal mentor programs. If there are none available there is nothing wrong with asking your family and friends to be your mentor or ask them if they could recommend anyone. A mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone older than you either. If there is someone that is a subject matter expert in a topic or area you want to grow in, it doesn’t matter how old they are, just that they have experience and know how for you to learn from.
Nowadays you can have a mentor anywhere in the world and still communicate with them. Do you have a certain writer that you love to read and want some help deciding on a future path? Try contacting them. Want to practice your French with a native speaker? Look online for one trying to learn to speak English. The worse thing that can happen is that they don’t respond or that they say no. The best thing that can happen is that you both grow in to better people and change the world. If you put yourself out there, most people are more than willing to help.
So what’s keeping you from having a mentor or five? Go find one!