Updated: Oct 14
Find a mentor
Mentors exist in all shapes, sizes, and situations — like the wise men of old, they come bearing gifts
The “teacher” mentor
Dr. Anderson. It sounds like an average name to you, but to me, it sounds saintly. Somehow, my curriculum and his teaching schedule threw us together, an intellectual, shy English professor twenty years older and an enthusiastic, driven student. After the first class or two, I took every class he offered because he was so willing to share everything he knew with any student who asked.
I asked. Repeatedly.
Dr. Anderson became my first real mentor, a person who willingly gave me resources, prodded me with ideas, steered me to new authors, recommended me for a summer teaching opportunity, encouraged my writing, and helped direct my thesis. He wrote a letter of recommendation for my first full-time teaching job at a nearby community college and told me repeatedly that he believed in me.
Thirty years later, I still send him a Christmas card and receive a response in return. We both recognize the incomparable value of a mentor-mentee relationship.
The teacher-mentor’s gifts:
Growth of knowledge baseCareer nudgeDiscovery of potentialHe uncovered my potential and helped me believe in myself — and that encouragement was “gold.”
The “author” mentor:
While it may not be the same kind of emotional connection as you’ll have with a person, book authors also teach, encourage, and inspire, acting as a different kind of mentor altogether.
If you’re a business person, you probably read books or blogs by the gurus in your industry. Scientists read information by prominent minds in that arena. Artists read art experts. If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably read Bob Bly or Neil Patel. Writers read how-to books by successful authors. (Even though I’ve never met them, I consider Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg my personal writing mentors.)
Isn’t it cool that in today’s digital age, it’s so easy to find material from qualified sources? Find an author you like and follow them. Buy their books, follow them on social media, go to their events.
The author-mentor’s gifts:
Easily accessible, written, easy-to-ingest information.Updates on trends and news in my industryIdeas for me to try
The “cyber” mentor
Read and follow any author long enough, and you may be lucky to develop a relationship that’s more than just reading their articles. If you connect with them by responding to articles they write, you may end up having a conversation instead of being an anonymous groupie.
I’ve found cyber mentors that don’t even know they’re mentoring me. Patrick Parr because he showed me that posts CAN be historical, literary, and fascinating. He wrote the kind of piece I want to write in “How Jack London Found His Wild Voice.”
But the one cyber mentor I value most is Helen Cassidy Page because she shows me, every day, what I can do for the next twenty years. She is doing exactly what I hope to do for the rest of my life…writing with wit, savvy, and vitality. You rock, Helen. You epitomize “the writing life” for a woman who has age and experience on her side. I’m following your roadmap to my 80s!
I’m 80 Years Old And I’ve Found The Secret To Happiness The cyber-mentor’s gifts:
The awareness that other people are out there doing what you want to doA real-time demonstration of how it should be doneA voice, a connection, and a long-distance colleague
The “cherished friend” mentor
One mentor stands out above all. The woman who hired me as a full-time, tenured instructor at a community college in 1991 was a mentor. But she was so much more.
Over the years, I asked her for advice. I watched her perform master feats of teaching. I observed the legions of students that loved her. She was a leader, a thinker, an innovator, and I learned from her actions.
We attended conferences together with other colleagues. We traveled to faraway places for both business and pleasure. We celebrated birthdays, weddings, and births with mutual friends. The years turned to decades, and time made that mentor into someone who was also a second-mother, a confidante, a dear friend that no word accurately describes.
The cherished friend-mentor's gifts:
Valuable feedback on projects, especially my book manuscript.
Support through my divorce.
Sympathy when my parents died.
Celebration when my daughters married.
Advice on a personal, case-by-case scenario.
How to live each day to its fullest. (It sounds trite, but she really does it.)
Being taken under her wing is one of the greatest blessings of my life.
Mentors are out there, bearing priceless gifts to those who are willing to look, learn, and ask.
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