Last week I heard from my first professional mentor, filling him in on the past few years of life. Though we’ve kept in touch (and have sent a few emails) over the years, it is hard to get a face-to-face conversation with a person you look up to. Also doesn’t help that he lives interstate. From time to time, I have had people ask me what is the best piece of advice I can offer new people just stretching their wings in the industry. Whether you’re a uni student or a high school student or even a professional considering a change of careers, mentors can help. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Reach out to someone who works in a field you’re even mildly interested in. Ask them if you can come spend an afternoon trying on their world. I’m willing to bet almost everyone will respond with an enthusiastic yes. I guess I have been a mentor for a few people in my time. Big shout out to Joel, Jess and Rob, keep up the good work guys.
In my opinion, a mentor who has been in the trenches and in your shoes tends to come at things from a place of greater perspective. They will help you see (perhaps even appreciate) the forest rather than obsessing over the trees. They understand the quirks and joys, the ups and downs. More important than industry is integrity.
For me, a mentor can and will be brutally honest, but also understands the value of nurturing. My mentors over the years have inspired me and encouraged me, but in many ways I think the fact that they have pushed and challenged me has been even more significant to my career development. I admit, they have even asked me to do things that terrified me initially. Sometimes it involves, doing things again and again and again. Yup, they have pissed me off and made me cry but as a result, I’ve come out the other end better for it. I admit, I have been extremely fortunate to have mentors, but not everyone is so lucky.