Go Your Own Way: 5 Tips to Build Your Own Mentor

Recently I’ve had discussions around the idea of mentor-ship. Specifically, I’m on a panel about mentor-ship in two weeks at the Wonder Woman Tech Conference.  Of course when you’re on a panel about mentoring one does start to think about the mentors that have helped to propel your career forward.  I thought about it…

and thought about it…

and thought about it some more…

and there wasn’t a.single.mentor where I was like “wow, they really inspired me to do more.”  Which, made me automatically think am I really that selfish that I can’t think of a mentor in my life??”.  The answer, no, and here’s why.

Not all of us are lucky enough to find mentors in our lives, professionally or personally. Having a mentor implies that we have been lucky enough to be put in a position to have a mentor, or someone who sees the exceptional skills we inhabit. The diamond in the rough so to speak. Careers, and jobs, are not fairy tales, this is not Aladdin finding some magic lamp and a Genie pops out and grants you three wishes. Life doesn’t work that way, and as some individuals have the privilege of a mentor, what if you don’t? Mentors are important, they help inspire us, and help us to visualize goals we want to reach. Milestones toward success.  To me, identifying those goals and milestones are much more important than obtaining a mentor, especially if you’re not in a position to have one.

Do not fear my friends, there are options. The age of technology has changed how we can approach mentors, and goals; we no longer need to have a mentor that is personally related to us or even knows us.

Why? We have the internet!

While I was first building my skill set, this started in the 90’s, where technology was starting to impact how we worked. Computers were common place, but it wasn’t persisted the way it is now with smart phones, and so forth. Sites like LinkedIn existed, but the internet was still a “dark” unknown as far as leveraging it to build our networks. One never even admitted that we met our dates online….oh the horror!

This is not the case today. Technology is your new mentor. Technology is there to help you identify your career goals, and where you can go next. YOU are the one building your mentor to help feed you, to firm up what milestones will pave your way to success. Here are my 5 tips for building your own mentor network online:

  1. Find someone that inspires you.
    • Follow them rigorously. Most people worth following will have a website or frequently post articles. Bridget mentioned Seth Godin. Find someone that inhabits skills or traits that you want to learn or refine, also find someone who makes you uncomfortable, who challenges, someone you don’t necessarily always agree with. It will help you to figure out what you do believe in and where you want to go.
  2. Network the hell out of it.
    • In person and online. Yes, you do have to talk to people eventually. Find meetups in your area, user groups for a technology you want to learn, or is in demand. Go to online sites that help you to meet people you wouldn’t necessarily meet otherwise. Like twitter. Like medium. There are a ton out there, and only you can find the ones that will  make a difference to you. This step takes devotion and dedication, it takes a long time to build out a robust network, it also requires nurturing. You will get out what you put in.
  3. Take a class
    1. If you aren’t learning a new skill online, see what continuing education classes your local community college has. Many of the courses are reasonable amounts of time, and some are even online, and affordable. You will meet people who are similar to you, in that they want to do more, be more, and you’ll broaden your network will also filling out your resume.
  4. Create your own tribe 
    • Don’t feel like you have to become bff’s with everyone online, or feel like you are less if that “popular” online presence doesn’t acknowledge you, or doesn’t accept your connection request. There will be some individuals that acknowledge you more, and they are who make the difference. Find those who encourage you, and help you identify areas of strengths and areas of weakness. They will be more of a “mentor” than some individual on a pedestal that had it easy their whole life. You are the one busting your ass here, and you’re the only one that will matter at the end of it.
  5. Pay it forward
    • If you find success with any of those tips, help someone else out. See someone struggling, or maybe they aren’t getting responses when they are seeking advice? Help them out, point them in a direction they can go, or someone who could help. This is all about getting ahead without being an asshole, and let me tell you, it’s about connecting the small fibers of who we are with the small fibers of someone else. Those fibers create a stronger web than any other. The more you put out there, the stronger your web is.

Of course there will be more areas that you’ll be able to dive into, but this gives you a framework to start developing your own unique mentor-ship if none is available. Instead of waiting for someone to find out how valuable you are, and wants to nurture you along, begin by nurturing yourself and your future goals. You got this.


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