Access to unlimited information is right at your fingertips. This blog included. And that is a fantastic thing. Knowledge sharing is one of the most important, democratic things anyone can do. As the cliche goes, knowledge is power.
It truly is.
Which is why you need a mentor. Despite all the things you can learn and teach yourself on YouTube, there’s one thing no Google search can translate: experience. With experience, not only do you gain valuable insight as life inevitably throws you curveball after curveball, you also get empathy.
Empathy is the most underrated business skill in the entire world.
Bold statement, I know, but I feel confident saying it. In fact, a lot of business archetypes give preference to bullying rather than understanding the human condition. This mentality has led to so much destruction and a stunning lack of sustainable innovation.
It’s the reason we have so much poverty, why we have to reinvent things all the time, and why there’s such a huge knowledge gap between generations.
By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials, yet there are constant complaints from organizations and older individuals that Millennials are not prepared (among other things). There is a myriad of reasons why that may be the case, but that’s beside the point. The point is, there’s a valid concern about transfer of knowledge right now. A huge part of that is because of technology.
Millennials and Gen Z have technology integrated into every facet of their lives. We’re talking about a world where toddlers know more about using computers than their grandparents. To say Boomers and younger generations are speaking another language is an understatement. Seemingly, this shouldn’t “matter” in the long term. We can learn all we need to with a little electricity and wifi…right?
Yet, here we are with this huge knowledge gap! It’s a well-founded panic because for all technology can do now, it can’t help you cope. It can’t endow you with the skills so niche and close-to-the-vest, they’re considered trade secrets. No Google search in the entire world can save you when you’re in the hot seat and forced to pivot your entire business plan on the spot. Your Alexa can’t provide encouragement and direction when you feel lost and wonder why the hell you’re even doing what you’re doing.
A mentor can do all that and more.
In an ideal world, there’d be a system to match you to the ideal mentor, and that would just be part of the deal of being a professional (free business idea: Match.com for mentorship). Unfortunately, most people sort of fall into mentorships. And it seems, somehow, the most successful among us found the best mentors there are. Might sound like magic, but I’m certain it’s no accident. Driven, motivated students and young professionals innately understand the importance of mentorship.
What do Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson have in common? Besides being billionaires, they all attribute a lot of their success to their mentors. What these men understand is that success isn’t achieved in a vacuum. No one makes it by themselves or without guidance.
No one. Not even Drake, despite his popular proclamation, “No help, that’s all me, all me for real.” I wonder what Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. thinks about that.
So, what makes a strong mentor?
In my post, the Top 3 Greatest Attributes of Student Mentors, I outline exactly what a mentor should strive to be. In a nutshell, strong mentors are:
- Experts in their field
- Open and willing to transfer knowledge
- Clear communicators
- Careful listeners
- Genuinely believe in their students
- Have a goal-setting mentality
How do you find that person?
Look up. Where do you want to be? Who’s there now? How successful are they at their job? Make a request to speak with them. It can be simple: “I’m interested in exploring my career options and was hoping to learn more about your role here.” Start simple and learn what you can.
There’s also a chance there’s someone already in your network who would be very open to a mentorship, you just haven’t thought about or been open to it. If you put yourself where those you admire are, you’ll inevitably meet someone with knowledge to share.
I mentioned Boomers and Millennials, but it’s not exclusive to intergenerational exchanges. Anyone who has more experience than you can be learned from. While I don’t encourage you establishing a mentorship with someone who doesn’t have a strong foothold in their field, you can learn something from everyone. Even people who are bad at their jobs. Knowing what not to do can be just as valuable as what to do.
If you’re still a student or close to it, you might consider connecting with a professor. Whether they are the best mentor candidate or not, chances are they’re connected to a lot of resources. As an Associate Dean, I have it on good authority we academicians are chock-full of resources and extremely underutilized. The students who do ask for help are always welcomed and helped to the best of my ability. So far, everyone seems pleased!
Still feeling stuck?
Join my online forum. Though I’m only one person, I seek to provide mentorship and guidance to everyone I can. Which is why I created a forum! I want to be able to connect with you and others in the community so everyone is given equal access to resources and knowledge. That’s how strongly I believe in mentorship.
Click here to join. And, be sure to subscribe to the blog for more.