Recently I was asked to speak to a group of young women about heroes. I thought long and hard about it and pondered who my heroes were. While I talked about two specific heroes, I came to realize that our lives are filled with heroes. However, we tend to save the term “hero” for the big screen. Another term that might sound more familiar is mentors. In our everyday world this is the term we call individuals who inspire, who help us along our journey, or offer guidance in some way. Whether it is for professional or personal advice, mentors are a powerful way to elevate the level of your life. If that doesn’t sound like a hero than I don’t know what does.
So…do you have a mentor? And if not how do you get a mentor? These are common questions that millennials and youth tend to ask themselves as we have all heard, “get a mentor!” It’s true—a mentor can do wonders to your life if you chose the right one. So let’s dive into these three questions and see if there isn’t some clarity to be found in this all important subject of mentors.
Do you have a mentor?
Have you ever taken a moment to sit down and think about the individuals in your life who have stopped and mentored you? I think you’ll be surprised at the answer you find. I will never forget two amazing mentors of mine who were my co-workers at my first “real” job. I never viewed them as mentors but time and time again they would take a moment with me either driving to meet a client, stopping by my desk, or answering a question of mine to teach me about the business I was in. Very informal, yes, but they were amazing mentors to me and helped shape my professional career.
So who around you is already expressing an interest in your growth? Look deeply because it might not be very obvious. So many of our best, more “informal” mentors can be easily overlooked. If you find that you don’t have a mentor, or would like to find a new/more serious/different mentor, then that is when you need to clearly define “Why?” If you can clearly state why this person would be a good mentor for you and how they could help you grow, then consider the next question:
How do you get a mentor?
To be clear, anyone can just “get” a mentor. We do it all the time with celebrities. However, finding a true, blue mentor that has a personal connection to you (aka a person in your real world) is a bit of a challenge.
I read a powerful book by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, called Lean In. She made the point that many people are looking for mentors and wrongly assume someone is their mentor or abruptly ask someone to be their mentor. That is the wrong approach when you are trying to find a mentor. That is because mentors usually happen very naturally, and if they are forced in anyway (aka asking someone straight up) then it usually isn’t going to be a very long, or successful mentorship. They need to express enough interest in you, your career, and your potential to want to invest the time and energy into helping you succeed. So if you shouldn’t just ask someone point blank to be your mentor, what should you do? Answer: stand out and look around.
Standing out is fairly obvious, it means to live your life and do you work in such a way that people in your path notice your efforts and grasp your potential. This is going to be easy being someone like you, just keep working hard, ask the right questions, and you will get noticed by ideal mentors if you do your part—and that is to look around. By looking around, you need to take an inventory of your company, teachers, influencers, friends, family, and acquaintances that would be great mentors to you. Then strategically get yourself in front of those people. Ask for a quick (and the higher up the quicker) moment of their time to review a project of yours. Offer to take this person to lunch to pick their brain on whatever success of theirs you wish to emulate. You will be surprised at how people will be more interested in helping you when they see that you first took the initiative to help yourself. Even if the relationship never turns into a lifelong mentorship, at least you got some pearls of wisdom.
How to choose the right mentor?
I mentioned early in this blog post that before you go seeking a mentor you need to know the “why” behind it. Too often, people look at someone successful that is reality close to them and they say, “Yep, they should be my mentor because they are rich/happy/are the boss etc.,” (You fill in the blank). When it comes to mentors, not one-size-fits-all. Be careful that when you are looking for a mentor you aren’t limiting yourself to just the boss, or someone who has authority. People even just one step further in the game of life make amazing mentors because they are still very much in the thick of it, and can offer timely advice. Sometimes mentors change and that’s okay too.
Young or old, starting out or adding onto your success, life can be so much easier when we have someone to look to as a guide. Mentors can be found everywhere, and can have many different roles in your life. They can last a short stay or a life time depending on the journey you take. Never be afraid to seek these every day “heroes” in the task of elevating your skill level or personal achievement. Make sure to stand out and look around you for these heroes and to never be afraid to activly persue finding a mentor.