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The Case for Mentorship



The Case for Mentorship

I've been thinking a lot about the role of mentorship lately. Mentorship is an opportunity to learn from another person in the most wholesome way possible. Your mentor has learned the content through experience, education, and probably a fair bit of mess-making. They are now opening themselves up to sharing that knowledge with you. We've all experienced mentorship throughout our lives, whether that be from an invested teacher, a coach, or just someone we looked up to. In some of those cases, we didn't choose our mentors - they were chosen for us. Now that we're adults, we get to choose if, when, and by whom we are mentored by. That's a big responsibility, but it's one that can make all the difference in the world.

Mentorship is part of a commitment to lifelong learning that can give us some invaluable tools, knowledge, and perspective. As I continue on my own mentorship journey (I've been lucky enough to have some wonderful mentors), I will reflect on some of the biggest advantages of an effective mentorship relationship. Note, I will not be talking about the knowledge you stand to gain in a healthy mentorship relationship but will instead focus on some of the other intangibles that are equally as important (and trust me, the knowledge you gain through mentorship is priceless).


Motivation

A good mentor will motivate you - it may not even be explicitly or intentionally, but a good mentor will help you feel excited about what you're doing and learning. They will push you to think differently and will get behind the excitement of what you're doing. There will be others in your circle who may not fully understand what you're doing who have a harder time connecting with your work; they may not share the same level of excitement as an invested mentor might. Your mentor may not fully understand what you're doing either, but the difference here is a good mentor will ask questions to get to that critical point of understanding. Once you've level set, a mentorship can give you the consistent motivation to continue - that might just be the difference between success and giving up. A mentor is also someone who has had success doing the work - watch what they're doing and learn from what they do and say.


Confidence

Confidence shares a lot with motivation; by motivating you to push through obstacles rather than turn back at them, you will gain confidence needed to withstand the oft-difficult path of finding or creating what you're looking for. Your mentor may not be as invested as you are, but that's okay - what matters here is investment. They are invested in you and your learning and are mentoring you because they see potential in you as a person and/or the work you're doing. A mentor isn't going to waste your time or theirs. If they are invested in you, take confidence and keep learning.


Community

Whenever you're learning a new skill, joining a new group, or starting a new project, you will most likely run into gatekeepers. Depending on what your focus is, it can be hard to break through. A mentor can help you navigate the rocky (and humble) beginnings and get off on the right track by introducing you to the right people. A mentor can serve as a side gatekeeper who can help you bypass the main gatekeeper, who can be a bit abrasive at times. Once you're in, a mentor can assist with building your community and network. An introduction and a good word from your mentor is tenfold more valuable than a cold call or LinkedIn DM to a stranger in your field you're hoping to connect with.


Perspective

A mentor may not have all the answers - that is an unrealistic expectation to have from your mentorship relationship. However, a mentor can and should provide a different perspective. That alone can be the difference between feeling stuck and gaining momentum. Perspective can take many forms, and you ultimately get to choose which perspectives matter to you and your work, but diversifying the way you view and interact with the world can only make your brand stronger. A mentor will at times challenge you and your thinking. You have a choice to accept the challenge and change the way you think, or you can stand firmly in your beliefs. Either way, the introduction of a different perspective adds value, either by forming new ideas, or emboldening your current beliefs. Sometimes, having someone to show you how they view the box within which you live and work is all you need to break out of it or strengthen it.




Go Together

I get it, we all want to do things our own way; we want to carve out our own paths and go it alone because nobody knows our work better than we do. That may be true, but there's value in going together - you're putting in the hard work, but a mentor is there to push you along the way. Learn from what they're doing and strive to squeeze as much as possible from that mentorship relationship. The best investment you can make is finding someone who will help you invest in yourself. Once you've created that spark, do whatever you can to keep that flame alive - find someone who might just be there to help protect it as well.


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