There’s so much pressure on having a mentor, but what people don’t tell you is that is has to come natural. It has to be a genuine relationship, not forced. I’ve been pretty clueless for years.
In high school, I thought someone (re: a successful adult or teacher) would take a liking to me, and show me the way to success and a thriving career. Junior year I began to see teachers form these relationships with acquaintances, classmates, and friends, but it never happened to me.
I’ve been praised for my work and excellence in classes throughout my academic career, both high school and college, but never really taken under someone’s wing like I’d always imagined. Granted, I probably missed many signs of someone trying form this relationship with me. By the end of college I asked a couple people to mentor me who had similar interest, and a career paths I (thought) wanted to be on.
After college, things only got worse for me in my pursuit of a career and mentor. I’ve met so many women and men through various programs, events, and social media, but I still struggled to get my footing as a mentee and full time professional writer.
After years of failed attempts at one day meeting this “magical” person to help me I took the advice of an online mentor, #blackgirlmagic personified, and Culrbox founder (also fellow Los Angeles native) Myleik Teele. On an episode of her podcast she told a story about “just doing the work” and mentors finding her. So, I took her advice of doing the work, and stopped worrying about things that come once the work is done.
I realized after years of trying to build the walls, windows, and stairs in my metaphorical house I actually needed to lay down the foundation of my life. The foundation in not only my career, but also spirituality, mental/emotional health, and most importantly my physical health. I understand now how important it is to have a strong foundation more than ever. The world comes at you with so many things, especially with social media, a strong foundation makes a huge difference.
I still don’t have a “mentor” per se in my career field (sorry to disappoint), but I did get recommended for a great job opportunity last year. I didn’t get it, but it was nice to be encouraged to step into something bigger than what I was already doing. Also, I was hired as a freelance editor for an online website which helped me see the muscles I have in my career field already, and strengthen them even more.
Mentors In Unsuspecting Packages
I will say outside of my direct career path I do have great women mentors in my life that have been confidants, and advisers when I needed encouragement (and a clue). These women have encouraged me, sponsored me, and held me accountable in my life when I needed it the most.
As a college educated, ambitious young woman I’ve put so much pressure on having a career mentor, and didn’t realize all the incredible women who have seen the light in me already. I had to let go of all the people who curved me, dismissed me, and made me feel disposable. Focusing on the people who feed my spirit, encourage my growth, and let me know I’m on the right path has been invaluable to my life.
Invested In Myself
I’ve gone to go a number of conferences, weekend workshops, and have taken classes online and in-person, along with reading books to add tools to my toolbox.
Not having a mentor means having to seek more information on my own to grow personally and professionally. Investing in myself has become pivotal in taking responsibility for my life. I’ve been able to recognize conscious and subconscious blocks, ask myself the difficult questions, and go after things despite possibly failing. It has also given me opportunities to meet people inside and outside of my career field.
Diversifying my network, with people in various industries, has given me new ideas, perspectives and experiences. It also takes the edge off of getting to know them and forming a genuine relationship.
Friend Are Mentors Too
I’d like to think of my friends as my mentors. As I watch them succeed they’ve always given me ideas or exposed me to new information they learn. Being in great company reminds me that I must be doing something right, and inspires me to do more.
Issa Rae said it best in her interview with Roland Martin about networking with your peers. I’ve learned so much from talking to my friends and peers over the years. As they enter into new rooms and learn new things they share it with me, and I do the same.
Not having a mentor has added to my insecurities, especially as a writer. I would wonder if people didn’t like me, my writing was terrible, or people just didn’t care. It could be those reasons or something else, but I can’t let that hinder me from moving forward. There were plenty of times I just didn’t speak up, didn’t send that email in the draft, and was easily discouraged in the past.
Letting go of what a mentor is or should be has taken the pressure off having one. Yes, having a mentor is very beneficial, but being present in your work and the relationships you already have is even more important. Taking care of myself, practicing gratitude, and therapy has opened my eyes to the support I do have. I’ve learned that my value is not lesser or greater because I don’t have a career mentor.
What has been your experience getting a mentor or being in a mentoring relationship? Comment below.