on mentoring: a followup

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on mentoring. I was feeling a certain lack of mentorship in my life as well as thinking that if I was asking, I better be giving back. First of all, the response to that post was totally amazing. So many of you responded to the questions I posed with your own views on mentorship, how it was revealing itself in your own life and how you were mentoring others. I also received some nice personal messages about your experiences with mentorship and yes, a few asking for some mentoring — which I was happy to offer!

Opening up this discussion on mentorship has taught me a few things. For starters, a mentor is ideally someone whose career path you are inspired by and hope to emulate or follow in their footsteps. I realize that in my original post, I was seeking more accountability, and that’s not really a mentor’s job. That is closer to the role of a life coach, which would be someone whom you would exchange currency with for their services.

A mentor is someone whom you ask for guidance from time to time, and perhaps even volunteer for in order to expand your own learning and experience. I’m sure there are other mentorship relationships where you’re lucky enough to already be working for your mentor in a paid position. I wish we were all so fortunate! The point is, there are mentors all around us, and there aren’t any hard and fast guidelines other than looking up to this person, respecting what they have created in this world, and knowing that they have something to teach you.

Here’s a special note for anyone receiving goodness from a mentor: follow up with them and let them know how they helped you! It’s one of the best ways to show appreciation for their time.

Since that post, and in order to satisfy some of my accountability goals, I actually did connect with a coach for a few sessions. My friend Alla Zollers, who some of you in the UX field may know, is just starting out on her coaching career change and I had the good fortune of being one of her guinea pig clients. Wow, coaching is way different that mentoring because the mirror is pointing right back at you. The best thing I received from these sessions was identifying and isolating my values and understanding the importance of honoring them in my work. That’s really important advice for someone like me (perhaps I’ll tell you more about that in a separate post). If you’ve thought about working with a coach, give it a shot. There are coaches for every possible thing you might want to improve in your life — and I do mean everything.

To keep the creativity train moving, I also created an accountability group amongst some of my peers. This has been incredibly rewarding. This group is currently limited to women, predominantly on creative career paths, most of which have independent businesses or are freelance. Every Monday (or thereabouts), we share our goals, big and small, and check in again on Friday to report back on our successes and… near misses? I don’t think that anyone uses the word “failure.” Each week we’re just trying our best to get to the next step. Throughout the week we share business advice, good news, and other odds & ends. It’s been awesome to have community support. I highly recommend getting serious with some of your peers about goals & big ideas and starting your own accountability group!

As a result of sharing my post, I was also linked a few times to a project started by Diana Kimball called /mentoring.

/mentoring is an open & distributed initiative designed to light the way from serendipity to connection, founded on the belief that believing in others is transformative.

The purpose of /mentoring is to get people to essentially hang their sign out that they are open to mentoring. No need to wonder or ask, they’re announcing to the world that they are willing to help others and will provide their time and thoughts to those who seek guidance in the areas that the mentor has established they have experience in. I love this idea so much! I haven’t officially hung my sign yet, but I plan to. It took me long enough to write this post!

So my parting thoughts to you are as follows:

There are mentors everywhere. Be one, and seek them out. Respect their time and value their expertise. Be understanding if they can’t get back to you right away. Pursue mentors that are on a path that you would like to explore.

If you are seeking a more formal relationship with goal setting, accountability, and a deeper dive into determining your career values, consider working with a coach. There are lots of them out there, in every specialty, and most offer a variety of pricing structures: group coaching, one on one, etc.

I don’t want to ignore the fact that some people just need some therapy, they need to look back to look ahead. There’s no shame in this! Everyone could use a little therapy in my opinion 🙂

Create an accountability group amongst peers. There are so many free community tools out there like Facebook and Google groups. Make an appeal to the people who you think would add value and if you’re the one starting it, commit to keeping the group active. If that’s not your bag, identify a group member who can carry on that role, or create an environment and a routine where people know to share the responsibility. Be respectful and have fun.

Consider hanging your sign out as a mentor and join the /mentoring movement!

If you have any new thoughts on mentorship since we last checked in, feel free to comment below!

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