I used to get kind of hung up on the term “mentor”. I still don’t like that specific term, in fact—it might have something to do with the Qui-Gon Jinn/Mr. Miyagi connotations. The idea of seeking out a single person always seemed goofy to me, too. Parents, teachers, family, friends, bosses and co-workers have all contributed so much to my understanding of life so far, and limiting myself to emulating a single one of them in every aspect would have been excruciatingly boring if not disastrous.
Nevertheless, I’m learning the value and necessity of seeking out people who can help guide me to the next step. It’s not at all about finding a single voice to follow blindly into the dark; for me the process has been more about putting together a personal “board of advisors”. (I stole that idea and term from Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone.) Since I’ve started to get a pretty good idea of what my personal and professional goals are for the next few years, I’ve been seeking out people—both in my personal network as well as on the internet—who have either already met some of those goals or might know something about reaching them. (Note: for most of my goals, there is a huge amount of people who meet that criteria! And that’s a good thing—it means that I should be able to get a lot of help with those goals.) Obviously not everyone is able or willing to help, and personalities don’t always click, but the amount of people that are willing to donate their time toward my success has been astounding.
I’ve also learned that the most powerful way to attract mentors and to make the most of the relationship is to be a good mentee. I make a point of implementing advice as soon as possible, and letting my mentors know how their advice is working out. Mentors measure their success in the success of their mentees, and having advisors in my corner who I don’t want to let down keeps me pushing for what we both want.