The Mentor Challenge
I’ve been thinking a lot about mentorship lately. I haven’t written about it because most of what I’ve been thinking boils down to this: I want it, and I don’t really have it, and I’m not sure how to get it. And that doesn’t make for a very scintillating blog post.
There’s tons of research showing the importance of mentors, in everything from sports to legal careers to the military. I’ve seen its value in my own life–when I’m focused and jazzed about a project there is usually someone in the wings inspiring me and guiding me and cheering me on.
Mentors are valuable in many areas of life, but what I seek right now is career mentoring. I don’t mean to imply that I don’t have any professional mentors at all. I have quite a few “silent mentors”–people I admire who I watch and try to learn from. But some of them don’t know I exist, and none of them know I am spying on them. I also have friends who I talk shop with–we hash things out and learn from each other. This is more of a peer relationship, though.
What I’d really like to do is populate my High Council of Jedi Knights, to borrow a term from Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation. I want wise and powerful mentors who know exactly what I need and the best ways for me to learn it. I want them to care about me and be deeply invested in my success. I want them have noble lives as well as laudable careers. I recognize that maybe I am being a bit unrealistic here. But I do have a couple of people in mind whom I admire. I have questions that I’d like to ask them.
There’s plenty of smart advice out there about how to be a good mentee. (Here’s some, and here’s more.) I think I’ll do pretty well. The hard part, of course, is getting up the gumption to ask in the first place, which is where the mentor challenge comes in.
I’m committing, here and now, to ask at least one person to mentor me before August is over. And while I’m at it, I will offer to mentor someone else too, because mentorship is a two-way street. If you’ve also been yearning for a little more guidance, maybe you will decide to take the challenge with me.