Mentor State of Mind

For months I’ve been meaning to sit down and craft a blog about being mentored, but my need to be mentored outpaced my ability to document the process. So big thanks to my mentors one and all for helping me transition into the new and expanding role.

As I am vocal about the value of my fleet of mentors, I’m often asked how to go about finding them.

Step 1: Look for people whose career paths, management style, technical acumen, etc. you admire.

Step 2: Shut up and listen.

Anyone can be a mentor.

Anyone can be a mentor.

Pretty simple.

Everyone can teach you something, and you don’t have to be formal about it. If your workplace has a formal mentoring program, by all means use it, but don’t feel like that is the only path forward.

Being mentored is far more about your state of mind than a magical bullet of wisdom.

However, there are a few guiding principles:

1. Be humble. You can’t learn if you know it all. Prepare yourself to really listen. Anyone can mentor you if you pay attention to what they have to teach.

2. Be ready for tough love. Great mentors build you up, but deliver the tough assessments and advice as well. If you want nothing but good news, seek minions or sycophants, not mentors.

3. Use the word “mentor” with respect. If you identify someone who is helping you with your life and career, honor them with the word and treat them accordingly.

4. Learn in secret. If you don’t have a formal or close relationship, or if someone you admire “doesn’t have time to mentor,” learn by watching, asking questions, and modeling your behavior. These people are still your mentors, but if the word causes distress, keep it to yourself.

5. Be prepared to work for it. Mentors are doing you a favor, acknowledge it. Taking good advice is often hard work. Duncan Epping has a great blog on the topic: “How Do I Get to the Next Level?” (It’s not all unicorns and stroopwafels!)

How do you find and honor your mentors?

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