One of the things that I do when working with coaching clients is ask them to identify mentors. Or, as call it “engage supporters” who will make a commitment to their success. These mentors make that commitment by engaging in one or more of the following key supportive actions:
• Engage in positive dialogue about their goals and realization of those goals
• Affirm their potential, encourage new behaviors, attitudes and activities
• Empathize when the going gets tough
• Support their efforts and hold them accountable to their actions and decisions
Pounding The Pavement wrote a guest blog for me that talks about some of these things
There are many people out there (including myself) who ask themselves every day, “How may I serve?” If you don’t currently have a supporter or a mentor who is engaged and committed to seeing you succeed, find one!
The one person I could easily describe as a professional mentor just sort of fell into my life; I met her at a meeting in which we talked about a publication we were both working on, and from then on, when we talked, it was often about writing and where we both were. She was further ahead than I was – I was eighteen and she was twenty and had just landed a very high-profile internship, selected as one of six from a pool of several thousand applicants, and now in her mid-twenties is doing very good work. She seemed to have a better grasp on how to make things happen; she knew how to get jobs, how to get published, how to build an audience – all things I didn’t understand at all when I was eighteen.
And as a consequence, when I started to pursue positions, writing jobs, or anything of the sort, I started going to her for advice, for help editing applications and letters, and for general assistance navigating the huge, unforgiving world of paid and unpaid work in an industry in a violent tailspin. While she didn’t have to do much – mostly she would simply tell me that something did or didn’t work, explain why, and then tell me later that an edited version was either much better or much worse (and why that was, too) – that was enough, since she had a background in actually getting published and I didn’t. While I was initially skeptical of her approach, I became increasingly convinced that she knew something I didn’t, as her editing work started to help me get the callbacks and interviews that I wasn’t getting when I was working only by myself, and I’m fairly certain that without her I wouldn’t have gotten them at all.
My mentor was someone I felt comfortable talking to about my professional unhappiness and anxieties, and it really did help me to do so. As this became more of an issue she had moved on to bigger things and was less available, but this was probably a good thing, as I at some point had to become more self-reliant than I was. While she helped me work on my writing, her own professional life was a much more difficult and intense one than my own, and the sense of perspective that I took from that was just as valuable.
I’ve never had a mentor within the actual company I’ve been involved with. Mentors often come from the outside the corporate structure, a consequence of meeting people with common goals. My mentor was, more than anything else, simply an outgrowth of a long-term friendship in which our career goals overlapped in a way that rendered them noncompetitive enough for us to help each other without feeling like we were compromising our own chances at anything.
However, I know that had I not met her and she hadn’t helped me get started, the countless times I’ve been rejected from writing and publishing work would’ve hit a whole lot harder and the times I’ve been accepted likely wouldn’t have happened. I’d be far further from my goals than I am now, though I can only assume that I would have eventually met someone who played a similar role in my life, as I simply couldn’t have gotten where I am now without someone like that having given me the confidence and the knowledge I needed to pull through it.