I was having breakfast with Peter on Sunday and the topic of mentorship came up. As I dived into my sambal scramble at the Tipper restaurant on Kingsway, Peter shared with me how he wished that he had a mentor growing up, someone who could walk him through the ropes of life.
I completely agreed - there was no Mr. Miyagi for either of us, so we had the fun task of figuring things out on our own.
When I was in high school, I was nowhere close to being the smartest kid in the class. Being in the International Baccalaureate program, I had classmates who were Ivy-League smart, who ran circles around problems without breaking a sweat. On the other hand... I was more of the class clown who rarely paid attention because I was trying to make my friends laugh. My best friend and I always figured it was better spending our time building go-karts (Alex) and crashing them (Jay). That being said, I had to adapt to get through high-school and that often meant relying on my classmates for advice and support, especially when it came to Organic Chemistry. *shudder*
Not being naturally talented at school, however, did mean that I was naturally talented at bugging people, asking them questions, or persuading them to let me copy their homework. When I think back, my friends ended up being mentors in that way. As Lennon and McCartney wrote, "I get by with a little help from my friends."
So what exactly is a mentor?
Definition of a mentor - an experienced and trusted advisor.
Considering that mentors are experienced and trusted in giving you advice, wouldn't you want not just one mentor, but multiple ones?
What would it look like if you have different mentors for different aspects of your life?
Here are a few examples:
Why finding a mentor is tough
Ideally, we're looking at a plethora of mentors to help navigate life.
But remember our first problem? It's really hard finding even just one mentor!
Taking a step back, here are the top 2 reasons I wouldn't want to commit to becoming a mentor.
1. Commitment of time
When I'm asked to be a mentor, I wince because I automatically think of how much time I'll have to invest in the other person. I hesitate agreeing, because mentoring means not just one session, but numerous, in-depth hang sessions with my mentee in order to see results. It means that I have to commit to making time out of my busy schedule to care about someone else and that can take months, even years. As you can imagine, if you're not terribly close with the person asking to be mentored, it's hard to want to say yes enthusiastically.
2. Responsibility of well-being
I also get scared of the potential burden placed on me; there's a certain standard, a level of accountability, in taking care of your mentee and making sure they flourish under your guidance.
All of a sudden, you have this expectation put on you that you should know which advice to give, when to give tough love, and when to compliment and provide recognition.
Mentorship is HARD by itself, but also exponentially harder if I don't know you.
How to get multiple mentors in 4 steps
Despite the fact that it's tough to get people to commit to mentoring you, it's very possible to find not just one, but multiple mentors. Here's a simple process I use that may clarify what to do.
1. Ask them if you can treat them to coffee or lunch.
Face to face time is invaluable because you get to connect with the person you're with and it's generally fairly laidback. When I'm with people, it gives me the ability to zone out from everything else and focus only on the person I'm with.
Phone calls are also great if they're not local.
2. Mention that you have 3 specific questions that you'd like to ask them and are seeking their expertise/feedback.
If it's a close friend, then the reason 'I just want to catch up' will do.
If you're not close friends, there needs to be a purpose to meeting. Especially if I don't know you, is there a clear reason why I should spend time with you?
Being specific makes it easier for us to say yes, because we know that you've taken the time to prepare before coming in hot.
3. After the meal, thank them for their time!
An attitude of gratitude goes a long way. Because time is our most valuable asset, we really appreciate it when you thank us for investing the 60 minutes with them. Likewise, we're very thankful for the opportunity to provide insight and share our knowledge, so we thank you for being pro-active and seeking counsel.
4. Ask them if you can follow up in 3-6 months with more questions, after you've applied what they've shared.
One of my pet peeves is when people ask for advice, receive it, and move on without taking action. It hurts when your advice seems to fall on deaf ears, so share with your mentor a quick recap of what you've learnt from that session and what you'll be doing because of it. What's even better is if you ask if it's okay if you check in with me in 6 months, so that takes away my job of remembering to coach you. It also shows that you're taking personal steps to ensure that you are getting the attention you need.
Voila! Without them knowing it, they've suddenly become your mentor!
They may not consider you an official 'mentee', but they are your 'experienced and trusted advisor'.
So....all this being said - now what?
Find one person on Facebook or LinkedIn that you haven't chatted with in a while and message them to catch up! :)
Please send me a message with what you've picked up and how it benefited you - I'd love to see how this is impacting your life. This way, I don't quit writing. Jokes. =D
Until next time,
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.