One of the enduring stories they tell us through our careers is that we need a mentor. They don’t exactly say it, but you get the impression that it will solve a lot of problems. Once you find this mysterious person they will guide you on the sacred path to success — their wise words will come to you in the darkness, they support at your back will make you strong. Once you have found your mentor — you cannot fail!
There’s the trouble. Where will you find this mythical person? And how can you convince them that you are the chosen one?
With that image in mind — your quest is kind of doomed from the start.
Because life is not exactly like a movie. I mean it is… but a movie is the compressed version. It summaries. It put’s days, weeks, months, years — sometimes a whole lifetime into a couple of hours. It also puts 5 or 10 people into 1. So, when you see someone being a great mentor or leader in a movie — in real life, that character would have come from an amalgamation of several different people to bring all of the skills and time and patience together.
Finding a female mentor is also tough — I did a quick image search for famous images of female mentors and came up with the 50 Best Movie Mentors. Want to guess how many were women? No need to check the link, I think you know…
It’s fair to say we’ve learnt more about life from the Mr Miyagi’s of this world than we have from any classroom…
Now personally I don’t have much in common with your typical alpha female — but I kinda thought having one of those as a mentor would jumpstart my career. When I met one that impressed me I was super-excited. Here was a woman with a lot of experience, organized thoughts, strategic and powerful. I could learn so much from her. So, I gave her my elevator pitch (and it was gooooooood). She said no.
I was a little taken aback. And a little relieved. She was scary.
But I could see her point, she had a full-time job, she was a board member, she already has several mentees, she volunteers — adding “just one more” really wasn’t possible.
So I got to thinking. How would anyone that good get to be my mentor? And I realized it was an unrealistic dream. No-one has enough time anymore. But when I started to look around myself at what the real world looks like, in all its crazy messiness — I realized the best solution was just to accept that and lean into it.
The answer is obvious — companies have been doing it for years. They appoint a Board of Directors. The Board Members each give the company a slice of their time. They provide some oversight. They set strategy.
As a person, why wouldn’t I try and get the same kind of expertise and insight? — from a board. A Board of Mentors. When you look at your life, I think you’ll realize you already have some of the mentors. You mother, your best friend, a work colleague. The others you need are someone doing the next job you want to do, someone in a senior leadership role and someone retired from business but still active in the business network.
You want to bring something to the relationship too. Maybe you volunteer for a cause they care about? Inspiring Mentors are often doing a variety of things — get involved.
And when you are meeting one of your mentors for a slice of their time — ask for 20 minutes, bring them a coffee and email them your 3 questions in advance.
Good luck finding your board!
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