One of the things I’ve been super-jazzed about since I graduated last year has been this whole relationship-building thing. Not limited to those that include romance and flowers, I’m talking about new friends, working relationships with colleagues, and my favorite, the relationship one can have with a mentor.
Do you have a mentor? If so, was it someone who was assigned to you? Did you seek this person out yourself? Essentially, there are two species of mentors – ones that are assigned to you, either by an employer, educator, coach, or boss and then there are the ones that you seek out, serendipitously meet, or just kind of come into your life and take on that role.
While I can’t help you with the first camp, I can speak to how to work on the whole finding a mentor thing.
There are three steps that will help you get on your way.
1. Identify the type of mentor you’d like. In a professional/career-type mentoring relationship – are you looking for someone who can advocate for you and your skill and help guide you through your career? If so, perhaps you should look to someone who is a couple (or several) levels above you in the hierarchy. If you’re looking for someone you can vent to, I’d recommend sticking to someone more around your same position, someone who understands the day-to-day of working at your level. While it’s great to have a senior staffer who understands you and how you work and what makes you tick, sometimes you just need to grunt about junior-level stuff. And that’s totally okay.
I’d also recommend that you have more than one mentor – find someone in your organization and find someone outside. The more people you work with, the more people you meet, the greater chance you have at people advocating for you when the time comes. It’s never a bad thing to have good people around you.
2. Get creative with your approach. Chances are, the person you’ve identified as your mentor-to-be is incredibly smart, has their shit together and has a lot of knowledge to offer up. That being said, they probably have lots and lots of people they’re working with. They probably have people coming to them all the time with questions, with the hopes that they’ll get an answer, let alone, a mentor.
With Aaron, that was how it went down. He was speaking for a bit at the Mashable party at SXSW and he sounded like he knew what the hell he was talking about and that he could possibly have some nuggets of goodness to pass on to my almost-grad self. I thought he might be an important person to connect with. So, armed with my newly acquired flip cam, I marched up to him and asked him to answer one simple question – “what one tip do you have for the almost-grad?” Following the interview, I was again impressed with his answer, how much he “got it” and was hell bent on learning more. So, I told him just that, and the rest, as they say, is history.
3. You have to give back. The biggest part of being someone worth mentoring is just that – being worth mentoring. You can’t just run up to someone and take, take, take and not offer up anything in return. Granted, there isn’t much by means of knowledge that I have to lend these folks that have taken me under their wing. But I do bring boundless enthusiasm, an eagerness to learn and turn that around and offer up that knowledge to the people I’m mentoring. Be a rising star, be eager, do good work that is worth recommending, and it’s just a big happy cycle of rainbows, sprinkles and brain power.
In the end, it’s all about surrounding yourself with great people. If you want to make it in this biz (PR, marketing, digital, social, emerging, LIFE, whatever) you have to continually surround yourself with the best and the brightest. I’m fortunate to have a handful of these people in my life. I thank my lucky stars every. single. day.
So what’s your take on mentoring? Over-rated? Best thing ever?