How To: Find a Mentor

Today’s Mentor Monday post comes from my friend Ryan Knapp.  After reading this post, check out his blog to find out more about him.

Photo cred: Kathy a.k.a. "K"

In 2006 I went from a PhD program in Linguistics to becoming a President/Owner of a minor-league soccer club (quite the life change, right?).  Thrust into my new position, one of the first things I did was make a list of what I needed to be successful.  Right below ‘make loads of $$’ and just above ‘hire an assistant’ I had scribbled ‘Find a Mentor’.

So I Googled, “Find a Mentor” and after reading 10 posts about why a mentor is so important and how to find a mentor in 5 steps (or for $29.99) I had a silent freak out moment,

“Oh God, I DON’T have a mentor…what do I do? Where do I start? and HOW do I find one?”

My previous life in academia I was lucky enough to have been ‘given’ three amazing mentors, or advisers as they are more commonly called.  I know many college students who are stuck with an adviser they despise, but my adviser in High School and my two advisers in College (Dr. Jeri Jaeger and Dr. Wolfgang Wölck) are/were incredible mentors and friends, but I never had to venture further than down the hall to find them.

For the first time in my life I was stuck finding a mentor on my own, and I had no clue.

So I took up an industrious approach and searched out potential mentors and read their bios and scrutinized as if I was interviewing them for a job to work with me.  “Nope, too young.  Nope, not in my field.” Lo and behold I came up empty.

However, after a few months of my failed mentor search I realized something — finding a mentor isn’t about trying to find a mentor at all.

Finding a mentor comes from forming quality connections and relationships with new people without a set outcome in mind.  Using this approach opens up a world of possibilities and you view mentorship in a completely different context.  The ‘search’ becomes unnecessary and your focus shifts to a productive two-way relationship with both give and take.

From the get-go you may have been looking for a big-shot in your field to be your mentor, but just because someone isn’t a big shot means they have less to give you.  Maybe you are a business focused person but your mentor might be someone who is an artist but can show you 1001 different ways to look at a situation.

I have been lucky enough to find two incredible mentors who have been instrumental in my growth professionally and personally.  Both Kiko Suarez and Keith Burtis became my mentors during transitions in my life, and they helped me get to where I am today, and are helping me reach where I’ll be tomorrow.

So, if you do not have a mentor but you are looking, don’t fret.  Put yourself out there and keep on making connections and meeting new people.  The beauty about our world is that your mentor could be someone half way around the world, a group of people, or you might become a mentor to someone in the process.

How did you find your mentor?  Were you looking, or did it just happen?

The Blogger and the Box Salesman

A lesson in spreading your content.

The blog post title and link will be played by The Box

The blog post content will be played by The Stuff Inside The Box

The blogger will be played by The Box Salesmen

Photo cred: Kersten A. Riechers

Scenario 1

Box salesman: Hello sir, would you mind selling these enclosed boxes for me?

Sir: I have no idea what’s in those boxes…get away from me weirdo.

Scenario 2

Box salesman: Hello sir, would you mind taking a look in this box?

Sir: I don’t know who you are. What if there are bees in that box. Nothxbye

Scenario 3

Box salesman: Hello sir, would you like to have a drink on me?

Sir: Sure why not.

…a drink and a chat later…

Sir: What’s in those boxes?

Box salesman: Here…Take a look!

Sir: Wow…infinite wisdom! I’m going to share these with everyone!

Box salesman: HOORAH!

For those not so theatrically inclined…

Photo cred: Douglas Porter

Scenario 1 = Worst. Don’t ask someone to share (retweet) your post.
Scenario 2 = Better. Share your post with them, without asking them to share it…but if they don’t know you, they don’t trust you yet, and they probably won’t even look.

Scenario 3 = Best. Show interest in the person. Get to know them a little bit.  If you engage with the person, you won’t even have to ask them to look at your post.

Summary: If you don’t know someone, don’t ask them to share your post.  If you do know someone, and they haven’t shared your post already, just ask them to read it and leave it up to them if they’d like to share it or not.

Tip: Choose people that would actually be interested in your post, and ask them for their opinion on the topic.