Mentors Wanted

Help! Image so not mine.

Help! Image so not mine.

I just realized that I don’t have any mentors.

For the last few years, I have been navigating the terrain of work (and life) without any guidance from someone in my field.

When I think of a mentor, I think of an older person potentially in your career of choice or even someone who isn’t in your field but has worked hard to advance in their respective career.

The last mentors I had were the advisors at my undergraduate institution. Recently, I began a quest to change that. I started by simply asking other writers for advice on pitching, writing, etc.

For the most part, I got a good reception. Some were surprised but many responded with love and great tips. Necole (from NecoleBitchie.com) tweeted about a website specifically for mentoring women, Levo League. The site seeks to redefine mentorship for the new generation. It provides the opportunity to ask questions and develop a rapport with to help you get the advice you need.

I’ve listened to a few of their office hours and have already obtained more knowledge than most of the books and articles I have read online. Sheryl Sandberg, whose speeches to Harvard Business School and Levo League I’ve been watching for the last week says men need to amp up their mentoring of women in order for women to get into those jobs.

That makes me think of my friends. Most of us outside of the teaching profession don’t have mentors. I can say that I don’t know many other older writers. All of the writers I know are my age and haven’t had enormous (by that I mean NYT best sellers list) success. They like me are still starting out, learning to pitch, trying to get published on Clutch, Jezebel, xojane & Madame Noire just like me. I have been fortunate that I found full-time employment in the email marketing sector.

But I as I am seeking advice on how to further my writing career, I am stumped on where to go. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Dubois Barnett, the EIC of Ebony Magazine at an event in Chicago. She spoke with us about the importance of networking in our career. I’ve been to several networking events where they discuss the importance of it. But they’ve never talked about mentors: people you can turn to for career advice.

Of course, we have elders who have given us advice on everything from life, to relationships and children, We love that advice but is it possible to really translate that advice into your field?

My dad has dropped some amazing gems but as a retired construction worker, he says I’m lucky to get days off when I need them. He’s great but he can’t give me the advice I need to get to the next level. I wrote my graduate thesis about how to have the best career. Most of the advice that I get from other writers is simple: Keep reading. Keep writing.

But as I keep reading and writing, how do I get the advice I need to have the job that I want?

Back in 2003, when I college, some people questioned why I was pursuing a journalism degree. ‘You don’t need a degree to write.’ True but J-school and the school paper are where I learned to take that first plunge.
They say the most successful people have about 3 mentors. I don’t believe I have any right now. Well, none that I know personally. I haven’t sought out mentorship in years but I know I need it.

What about those who don’t have access to real mentors? How can they advance in their career? We push the teens and adults to go back to school but then what do we tell them? Everyone can tell you how to do something when they’ve never done it.

Tonight I’m going to send out a few emails to some writers that I deeply admire.

Outside of school, in the workplace, you have to seek mentorship. I was so use to having people offer that advice, I believed that in my older years (late 20s. I know not really old) I wouldn’t need them.

Wrong.

I see that now more than ever.

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