Change your Life – Seek out a Mentor

June 30, 2007

Penelope Trunk wrote today at Brazen Careerist and Yahoo Finance that a great thing for professionals to do this summer is mentor summer interns. I couldn’t agree more. Some of the best learning experiences of my life have come from people who have chosen to invest in me, show me the ropes, have conversations with me about my career dreams and help me believe in my ability to succeed. Many of those people were employers or bosses during internships.


Young workers today can learn a lot from mentors – about careers, industries, advancement, you  name it. Having a mentor can also help young workers launch their own careers. If I had not developed a mentoring relationship with a supervisor at my post-college internship, chances are, she wouldn’t have known me well enough to have recommended me for the job I have today.


But, not every supervisor is going to come to you and ask if they can mentor you. Many Gen X, Boomer and Traditionalist bosses don’t feel comfortable imposing themselves on members of our young, aspiring, somewhat mysterious – perhaps because we’re overall so technologically savvy – generation.


So this summer, or any time, for that matter, whether you’re an intern or an entry-level worker, I encourage you to seek out a mentor. You might be surprised at what happens. Taking the initiative to seek someone out and then asking them to mentor you shows that you see them as an expert and someone worth learning from. It might just be the start of a relationship that will change the course of your life forever.


3 Responses to “Change your Life – Seek out a Mentor”

  1. It’s great that you’re encouraging people to get mentors! Really important advice.

    I think the reason that older people do not approach younger people as mentors is because typically, mentoring has been seen as time consuming and annoying, and older people don’t want more responsiblity at the office to deal with more things.

    It is not widely known that mentoring someone can actually help the mentor.

    So, with this in mind, one of the best ways to ropen in a mentor is to ask very specific questions that are within the area of that person’s expertise. If they give you a good answer, ask another very specific question in a week or so. These are the kinds of questions that feel low risk to answer, so they are likley to get an answer. The more questions like this someone answers, the more invested in you that person will feel.


  2. Penelope,

    Those are great insights. I read some more in depth observations you have on these exact points at your blog. Anyone who happens upon this thread should check them out under her “mentoring” section.

    I think it’s vital for young people to not be afraid of investing this very sort of effort in people they work with that they can learn from. In fact, young people don’t even have to seek mentoring from older workers. Often, successful peers have a lot of things to learn from as well. Peer-to-peer mentoring can be valuable, because they can often speak to you close to your level.

    But regardless, seeking out mentoring relationships is critical for truly growing and advancing in your profession, whatever it is. Thanks for your passion for helping other people succeed and your insight into this discussion.

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