Everybody Needs Mentoring

You’ll get further in work and life with a savvy someone nearby

The Mell Brothers invited me to their wonderland of an art studio in Phoenix when I was 19. They were part of a community of open-minded artists that made the otherwise bland city tolerable to a young artist like me. I was eager to meet anybody who would confirm that the path I was taking was all right.
They had an airbrush-work area, which was of special interest to me at the time. They meticulously showed me the various techniques and flourishes possible with the propelled ink that I was trying to master on my own. I’ll never forget that time and while I haven’t picked up an airbrush in a while, I remember how the experience informed the next painting and then the next, and also my ideas of how my life could be molded as a professional doing what I loved.They were very generous with their time. They lent me books on hand-lettering and gave me and my friends supplies to do our thing.
I only hope now that I was considerate of their time; that I produced art that showed promise for their investment in me.They were one chapter in a long list of people who took an interest in me and have given me the threads of influence that I now can see have formed me and my work. They didn’t come knocking on my door. I was really out there — driven and curious to meet anybody who would teach me and help me find my way.

Get a mentor

We’re all around you

If you’re new to the scene, to your vocation or just clarifying your interests, seek out those people who likely could help you in your path and have a level of integrity you’re comfortable with. Be relentless in your research. Through the digging and requests for introductions, you will also be seeing how it’s all connected.

If you’re sincere about learning and growing, this process will continue throughout your life. So, no need to be in a hurry to have it all now. You don’t even know what it all is yet. That will become apparent with each new interaction and mentor. Just open a door, be open to what’s being offered and by all means be a considerate student.

Find the right mentor

The right sensibilities and values matter most

Maybe you’re looking for someone who has specifically achieved what you hope to achieve, but you don’t need to limit your search to your field. Anyone who has crafted a visibly satisfying arrangement in life has plenty to teach, too.

Be keen in your search for someone who also values mentorship. Giving back is a trait that comes with having good mentors. As the teacher we get a lot out of this too including a fresh point of view, the rewards of nurturing talent, and the good feeling of sharing what you sweated to learn.

Be on time and be prepared

Respect and manners go a long way

You’ve been given the opportunity to have some valuable time with a professional who likely has a very busy schedule. Respect that as if you were paying a handsome sum for an hour of very specific expertise, because that’s what you’re getting.

Do your homework. Come prepared. Be early. Follow up.

For a couple of years I had a volunteer gig tutoring GED classes for homeless youth. Against all odds, they religiously showed up on time and were focused and respectful of what we could offer. Because of this, I could not let them down, and I worked harder to be useful.

On the flip side, just this week, two eager, would-be protégés canceled with less than 15 minutes notice. They got one free pass, but the offer is canceled if they ever hack into my day like that again.

So be prepared to state: why you contacted the mentor. How their expertise relates to your interests. Where you are in your path. What you hope to learn. And then be a good listener.

An hour is great. An invitation back is the best.

Wherever you leave off, follow up in a thoughtful way. Best of all, send a concise summary of what you got from the meeting, and what the insight means to how you’re proceeding.

What’s the ask?

Be open to outcomes beyond your expectations.

There is no quantifiable, “monetizable,” degree-granting results to being a protégé. Please don’t insult your mentor and try to close a deal or have an “outcome.” With time, and the demonstration of sincere energy, you’ll get more than introductions or your next job. You’ll have new tools in your chest that will serve you in many ways that won’t be apparent until much later.

If you find your mentor match and are a respectful beneficiary of their gift to you, it’s likely that they’ll be in your life for a long time. Checking in, showing your evolution, and continuing to seek their guidance will continue to align you to what’s important, and will serve as a reminder of what you’ve learned.

For me — and I’m not done — the fun thing now is to view the seemingly obvious timeline of influences that I couldn’t have drafted when I started out.

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