As children, we spend twelve years of our lives letting people teach us. After high school, we select colleges based on what we want to study – where are the experts in journalism, criminology, or Russian history? Then, at 22 years-old, we’re in the world by ourselves. Good luck!
Too often people believe that the right education automatically results in success. Not necessarily. I’m proud of my Bachelor’s Degree, but it’s had a very small role in my career as a freelance writer and editor. It’s not enough to be educated – you need to know how to apply that knowledge. There’s no better way to learn than to find a mentor.
Mentoring is not a new concept. The Bible frequently commands parents and elders to instruct the younger generations. More recently they published Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies. Google “importance of mentoring” and you’ll get almost 10 million results. There are over 7,200 books available on Amazon. There’s obviously some benefit to finding a mentor.
That’s not as easy as it sounds, though. People are busy. With work, family, and friends, not everyone has time to mentor a budding artist or financial adviser, and it’s not everyone’s advertising their willingness to mentor. Even if they were, having a mentor is the start of a relationship – it’s not something you can try on and return. You want to find someone who understands your field, who’s willing to teach, and, most importantly, someone with whom you get along.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for finding a mentor:
1. Meet people. Go to Business After Hours. Join a professional organization. Go to a conference. Do whatever you need to do to meet successful people in and out of your field.
2. Get involved. Don’t just go to a conference – interact. Make sure you’re connecting with people, personally and professionally.
3. Keep an open mind. The CEO of a local company may seem to be the best business mentor in your area, but don’t put all of your hopes on one person. If you spend all of your time trying to meet and connect with that one person, you may miss the art gallery owner who’s just waiting to share his success secrets with others.
4. Read. If you live in a rural community (like me), it’s not always easy to connect with people in your field. If there aren’t any professional groups in your area, then bring some professionalism to yourself. Get some good books, or find a good blog, dedicated to your work. Until you’re able to connect with flesh and blood, keep learning on your own.
Don’t stop learning just because you have your degree/diploma/certificate. Commit yourself to learning and finding a mentor.