Are you having a hard time finding a mentor?
In Build What You Want: 6 Keys To Your Best Career, I talked about the importance of having a mentor or a coach to help you along in your career. They can help you focus on what’s important, call on you to up your game, support you during toughest challenges, challenge you to bring out your best self, teach you tactical steps, open doors for you, and point you to opportunities that you may have missed.
Why wouldn’t you want someone like this on your side?
Problem is, finding a mentor—let alone a good one—is a common challenge.
People often tell me they don’t have a mentor today. Worse, they don’t know where to look for or find one.
I thought I’d share my own recent challenge. Hopefully, this can trigger some thought or inspire you to look for unconventional mentors yourself.
For a long time, I worked in an environment where mentors/coaches were so easy to find–people were volunteering to be your coach!
Because of this, I was spoiled. All I had to do was look around my own workplace, and approach someone who I thought could play that role in my career. The chances of being turned down were so small, that asking anyone to be a mentor was not an issue.
When I left that company, the whole world of mentoring/coaching changed. The rose-tinted glasses were torn off my face. My next workplace was not open to the concept of mentorship; in fact, nobody I worked with had any!
It became even worse when I decided to jump into my new career in 2013.
While my previous mentors were generally supportive, I felt I needed a new set of mentors who have had experiences similar to what I was about to go through. The problem was I didn’t know anyone I can easily approach.
If there’s ever a time you need to have a good support system, starting a new career is definitely it.
I knew that I needed to find myself good coaches to help me learn the ropes and navigate these new waters I’m diving into. But where to find them?
I adjusted the way I viewed mentorship.
I extended my search to people who could provide me the guidance and help I needed–whether they knew me or not.
The important thing though is that I had access to them through their work (e.g., books, podcasts, interviews, other published materials).
I listened to their advice. I paid attention to the nuggets. I figured out how I could incorporate those in my work or daily processes.
When I ran into problems – issues, crisis of confidence, doubts – I looked to their words to help me get through. And depending on what I needed at the moment, I looked to one or the other for the help. Just as I would with a live mentor.
Below is my list of my unconventional mentors.
They each have a purpose for me. They encourage me. They challenge me. They make me want to continue and grow along the path I’ve chosen. Just like a live mentor should.
Steven Pressfield’s two books The War of Art and Turning Pro have a special place on my desk. Pressfield is my absolute go-to guy for when the nasty Resistance leers its ugly head. And as anybody who’s ever changed tracks would tell you, Resistance shows up plenty times to try and convince you to turn around and go back to where you came from.
Seth Godin is the person I would be happy to pay a gazillion dollars if he were available to be my coach. Thank goodness he is a prolific writer, and I am never without something from Seth. I own and have read several of his 17 books. I subscribe to his daily blog. I’ve listened to his Start-up podcast at least half a dozen times. I’ve watched his TED talks; I’ve attended his online courses wherever I can find them. Seth is my overall business mentor.
Ashley Ambirge is perhaps the most unconventional mentor on my list. She is the voice in my head that says “Go get it girl”. She is the person I turn to when I need to find the chutzpah to say what I want to say, or when I’m feeling like I’ve lost my voice. When I need a bit of real, tough-love talking, I go to Ashely. She snaps me right back.
Joanna Penn is a recent addition to my unconventional mentor list. I discovered her, as I was figuring out the world of independent publishing, and she’s been a God-sent. I naturally gravitate to her because we have similar backgrounds, having both come from the world of business consulting. Joanna and Pat (see below) are my tactical mentors. They ‘teach’ me specific things, steps I can take action on.
Pat Flynn was the very first unconventional mentor I picked up when I decided to go the entrepreneur route. He used to be an architect, laid off in 2008 together with a thousand others who had a similar fate. He stumbled into a new life soon thereafter, and now runs a hugely profitable (and quite transparent) online business. I learned the ropes reading his blog and listening to his podcast.
Today, I have other mentors–both traditional and unconventional–that have been added to this list. But these five form the initial core set of people who have helped me tremendously when I took on my second break.
Having a trusted advisor is an invaluable weapon in your arsenal in building your best career.
I hope these examples help you find your own set of mentors too. Don’t settle for not having one because you don’t know anybody you can approach today. Remove that limitation and think of unconventional mentors that could provide you the help you need.
Make a list of the people you can call mentors or coaches today. If you’re finding it hard to make that list, think of public figures whose work, advice and points of view are readily available to you (e.g., authors, podcasters, bloggers, journalists, public speakers, etc.)
My book Build What You Want: 6 Keys To Your Best Career is now available on amazon.com. Does it feel like building a successful career is a hit-or-miss proposition? Be strategic and use the six basic keys to building a fulfilling and meaningful career.