How To Find A Mentor

It's no secret, I've said it before.  My relationship with my father is second-to-none.  There is no one in this world that I would rather look to for advice, confide in or share my family time with!  I look to my father for all of the guidance in life.  He has acted as both parents for my entire life, even when my parents were still married and for that I am forever thankful.  I definitely consider him my mentor for life.  

As a student and young professional, I have witnessed and have heard of a lot of my friends talking about how they have had business mentors and relationships.  It was something that I thought I was missing out on and I thought it was something to be ashamed of/scared about.  Let me tell you why.  For some reason, the idea of having a mentor never really crossed my mind.  Like I described, I always confided in my father for most of my decisions and for any questions I had.  So when all of a sudden friends of mine started discussing professional mentors/people in their field that they could look up to, I thought I had missed out on something amazing.  I thought there was a possibility that I could lose myself in my own world.  

Not only this, but I thought not having a mentor was going to stifle my own growth in my field.  I thought not knowing anyone that I could directly report to with questions or queries would really hurt me. I was honestly more 'FOMO' than anything, but this just fueled me to think about mentors and mentoring as a whole.  

I figured out, over the course of my high school/college years that if you don't have a mentor, it's okay.  Why?  Here are a couple of reasons:

Sometimes you can gain a mentor without even realizing it.  If you're in high school and you feel lost or like you need someone to help you through, check out the guidance office.  Walk right in and ask away.  These counselors help thousands of students but they will never forget you and your specific needs.  To this day, I remember my guidance counselor and I would most definitely recognize her as one of my high school mentors that got me the opportunity to go to Girls State, and helped me prepare for the most important years of life at that time: college.

College is a WHOLE DIFFERENT scenario. I can tell you right now that you will most likely acquire someone mentor-material in a professor.  Here's why I say it.  Of course there are going to be professors that you cannot stand.  Finding one that you love can seem like a diamond in the rough.  To be honest though, it's all about what you make it.  I can tell you that throughout my entire time in college, there are two professors that I consider mentors STILL today.  

When in college, we all know there are some classes you take that you cannot stand.  The prerequisites, yes they are SO annoying.  But when it comes to finding yourself a mentor, PAY ATTENTION to the classes that you do love.  My degree is in Journalism, I had an obvious passion for all of my Journalism and news-related courses.  I made a stronger connection with some professors more than others because of their teaching style, but I will never forget the impact that one of them had on me.  Knowing that I felt strongly about the positive energy of this professor, I started confiding in this certain professor with more and more of my questions, queries and generalities.  Before I knew it, this certain professor became my mentor.  To this day, I put this CERTAIN professor's name down as a reference on job applications.

Lets speak back to the things we don't favor as much: those dreaded prerequisites.  You know, the classes we take that we think we'll never ever use again?  Yes, you know exactly what I am talking about. You will be surprised at what you can discover about yourself in these classes.  I remember distinctly my experience in one of these circumstances while in college.  I had to take a poetry class.  I was absolutely dreading it to be completely honest.  I really am not into creative writing, I didn't LOVE poetry and I just hated the fact that it was another time during the week where I wasn't reading news and writing articles. 

I came into the class on the first day only to find one of the most interesting looking professors at the lectern that I have ever seen in my life.  He had this quirky look about him, a fancy water bottle, and he had been writing random things on the chalk/whiteboards all around the room.  It was so bizarre to me.  It was probably one of the most 'college-y' college experiences I had when dealing with professors.  There are so many stories I can tell about this class but the truth is, I ended up falling in LOVE with the class.  The professor made the subject matter SO enjoyable.  Poetry.. I mean are you kidding me.  I never thought I could love it but I did.  I found myself interpreting things in my daily life based on what we would learn in class.  I found myself reading into things everyday and trying to compare them to characters/settings in poems, poets, authors, etc.  It was the most bizarre thing in the entire world.  Earlier this year, I messaged that very professor on LinkedIn to tell him that I had an experience that reminded me of something we learned in his class.  I TOOK THE CLASS NEARLY 3 YEARS AGO.  When I left that class for the last time ever, I hugged and cried with the professor.  What an amazing mentor that I never thought I would have.  What a connection that I will have forever!

Moral of this story: always stay invested.  Even if it's something you don't love.  You might learn to love it either momentarily or it could leave a lasting impression.  You might also gain a mentor in the process.  

Mentors don't have to be someone that you speak to.  Look into your field!  Are you practicing medicine?  Look up a doctor/surgeon/etc that you admire and read a little about him/her everyday.  Learn more about them and what they do.  Learn what they have accomplished and read about their mistakes/triumphs.  You will be astonished at what you can uncover.  Technically, it's you mentoring yourself through the experiences and teachings of another professional.

Personally, I am in Journalism (okay B, say it one more time).  I have found a selected few journalists/pundits/talking heads that I admire and have studied them.  I learn more and more every single day about the way they work and how I can adapt what they do.  Not only do I learn technique from them, but I shape my opinions and outlooks on what they say, do and learn themselves.  This is a very powerful experience that you can offer yourself and you may not even realize it!

Although this specific experience has not happened for me, ask someone!  If you know someone that you admire/think would be an outstanding mentor: ask them to be.  You never know what good (or great) could come out of a relationship if you don't even try it.  Write them an email, add them on LinkedIn, give them a call.  Reach out to people because not only will you perhaps have a new mentor, but you will have a new connection at the very least.

I definitely inspire myself.  This might sound a little pretentious to say, but its true. I have such a passion for my career that I constantly stay fueled with knowledge to better myself.  And you know what, that's inspiring enough for me to call myself my OWN mentor.  

What did I forget?  Let me know in the comments below or send me a tweet!  I would love to hear how you guys have found your mentor.  I know a lot of people are going back to school and starting new beginnings, so good luck!  Having trouble putting yourself first?  Here's why it's important.  Thank you for reading.  -Brit.

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