This topic is so close to heart because finding a mentor is important to everyone. Finding a mentor is SO IMPORTANT that I have dedicated a large part of my life to starting Over My Shoulder Foundation and promoting the idea of Mentorology – the art and science of mentoring. Justin Locke, a previous member of the Boston Pops Orchestra, appeals to teenagers as he writes this Beginners Guide to Being a Successful Mentee. Yet, most of as really ARE all still just kids at heart wondering what we’re going to DO when we grow up. Mentoring IS often understood as an older person teaching someone younger how to do a specific thing, or teach that youngster some lessons about life. Yet in Mentorology there is an even exchange. Mentor and mentee share valuable insights with each other and grow because of it.
Even Warren Buffet’s career advice is to “do what you’d do if you were independently wealthy.” Why not start now by finding a mentor? It’s so easy with Justin Locke’s step-by-step mentoring advice below.
-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director
Okay, so you’re a high school kid who has been reading this Over My Shoulder blog, and now you’re saying to yourself, “wow, how do I get in on some of this fabulous mentoring action?” Well, read on, we will explain the basics
of how to do it, or at least one approach.
Finding a mentor is actually pretty easy to do. Even if you’ve never encountered someone who took any interest in you up until now, if you follow the rules and procedures, you too can have a fabulous mentoring experience.
Step one: It all starts with desire. Here is a trite question, but it’s also one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself: what do you want to be when you grow up? It’s kind of important to not take this lightly. Also, you are probably surrounded by people who are trying to influence your decision and tell you what they think you should want. So sit down in a nice quiet room someplace all by yourself and imagine that everyone around you is happy and content and willing to accept whatever career decision you make on your own. And then, ask yourself that question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Bear in mind, this can be difficult, and you may not get it right the first time. This is a process of discovery. But before you can present yourself as a candidate for mentoring, you need to at least say, “I am seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I was hoping you could give me some advice in the matter.”
The next step is finding potential mentors and hooking up with them. This is a whole lot easier than you might think. Start close to home, in your current “network.” Ask your parents if they know someone. Ask your friends and their parents if they know someone. If that doesn’t work out, start expanding your network. For example, there are wonderful things in every town in America called “Rotary Clubs.” They sponsor all sorts of programs for high school kids, including scholarships and leadership training. Not only that, but practically every Rotary club has at least one lawyer, one doctor, one banking professional, one real estate agent, and one everything else. They know everybody. They are a magnificent resource of connection, they would be happy to give you some advice, and all you have to do to start is send an email to the president of the club.
The next step is, again, based on the answer to the question in step one. You want to say to these people, “I’m seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I’m looking for an adult who can give me some advice.” It is important that you be serious about your desire, because they will notice right away if you aren’t. Also they will notice right away if you are, and that will command respect.
Now at this point you may be asking, “why would any of these busy people want to take time out of their day to spend time talking to me?” The answer is, for all sorts of reasons. Every single one of these people was, one
time or another, a teenage kid just like you, so they can empathize with your current situation more than you might think. Many of them will have memories of being a somewhat lost and confused teenager, wishing that
someone had helped them out and given them guidance. Helping you is a way to heal their own past. Or perhaps someone helped them out way back when, and now they are eager to “pay it forward.”
There’s also just plain old ego. Many people are eager to share their philosophy, or just show off their knowledge. And no matter who you are, it feels good to help other people. And don’t forget, there is tremendous
“equity” in youth. Older people like to be around younger people. You’re so full of life.
Getting Into Your Mentoring Relationship
There are all sorts of ways to get into a mentoring relationship. You can take someone to lunch. Or, you might volunteer or sign-up for an internship. The best mentoring opportunities are totally unique and don’t
fall into any pre-existing forms. To make it happen, just hang around, or maybe offer to make yourself useful. Ask people the magic question: “How can I help you?” Offer to help out with menial tasks or just
sweeping up the place. If you want to be a lawyer, filing the papers or washing the windows in a real law office for a couple of weeks will tell you more about the actual business than any book on constitutional law.
Once you hook up with a mentor, bear in mind, being a good mentee is not the same as being a good student. This is not a relationship where you should be eager to demonstrate that you “know the answer.”
The real world is not school. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Be humble. And remember this principle of applied stupidity: “The dumber you look, the more stuff people will tell you.”
There are more mentoring opportunities out there than you can count. And remember, it’s important to go to school and get good grades, but networking and making connections is just as important to your success in
life, if not more so. There are lots of people out there who are genuinely eager to help you. It all starts with articulating desire.
So, what you want to be when you grow up?
© Justin Locke
Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass with the Boston Pops before becoming an author and speaker. In his books and presentations he talks about the confluence of education, history, and the performing arts, and how this affects current issues of organizational dynamics and management.
His books include “Real Men Don’t Rehearse” (his humorous Pops memoir) and ”Principles of Applied Stupidity” (or, the benefits of going against conventional wisdom). His upcoming book is titled “The Emotions of Money: Undoing the Effects of Poverty Thinking.” J
Justin has been featured on Chronicle HD, CBS Radio, WGBH’s Greater Boston, and in the Boston Globe, and he recently appeared as an “author@google.” Justin’s plays for family orchestra concerts are performed all over the world, and he writes a monthly article of managerial “people skills” for the American Institute of CPAs. Justin appears regularly as an entertaining and inspirational speaker for more information please visit his website www.justinlocke.com. [/box]
[box] Have you successfully found your mentor? Please write to us and share your mentoring stories with Over My Shoulder Foundation so we can keep inspiring others to do the same! [/box]