You need a mentor.
One of my clients just accepted a new job, and while I’m thrilled to be proven, yet again, right that yes, of course, she would get a great job, what really made me ecstatic was reading this sentence in her email: “I feel like [the new boss] can mentor me properly and that this is a company where I can grow.” I do tend to get emotional about a lot of things—”The Wizard of Oz,” Chekhov’s short stories, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson without his shirt on—but when I see someone in their 20s who gets it, who understands that mentoring is what makes, or breaks, a career…well, you can’t hear me but I’m humming, “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”
I’m thrilled this client got it, and in essence, chose to allow herself to succeed, by going to work at a place where she’ll get the tools, opportunities and resources to achieve her fullest potential—because unfortunately so many people think that they can go it alone, that mentoring is for disadvantaged youth, or something. Many of these people then work at companies where they’re ignored, or generally not given the professional opportunities they need, and then these are the clients I get, in their 40s, who seem to have this fantasy that yeah, one day they’re going to have an awesome career. One day. Listen, “one day,” I’d like my damn cats to get over themselves and get a job and repay a little of the hundreds of thousands of dollars I’ve squandered on cat toys, when all they wanted was the damn box the toy came in. But the world doesn’t work like that.
No, on Earth, you’re future is greatly predetermined by your past. So the experience, skills and opportunities you’ve assembled, are what will likely help you get the experience, skills and opportunities in the future. So if you didn’t have mentors in your teens and twenties, if you didn’t have people who went to bat for you; who made you think you could do great things and that making mistakes was normal; if you didn’t have mentors who fought to get you good assignments…you see where I’m going with this? You can do it on your own, of course, it’s just much harder. Much, much harder.
On the plus side…there are many good people out there who do want to mentor. If I, in my callow, smug 20s, in the bloodthirsty hand-to-hand combat known as “network news,” was able to amass some lifelong mentors, then anyone can. There are bosses and people up the professional food-chain who want you to succeed because oh, you remind them of themselves at your age, or they have kids your age and they hope somebody helps them, or you’re smart, or you went to the same schools, or they know that smart people are good for business, or they’ve been where you are now. This is why you have to dress nicely for work, be pleasant and productive. Demonstrate interest in other people. Don’t whine. Ask about their pets. Give people a reason to help you. Aren’t you worth their help?
Listen, life’s a challenge. We all need support and nurturing. It’s tough out there, kid. I have clients who come to me with great ideas and they just need someone else to validate them. They just need someone else to be excited about what they’re doing. Also, when I say I had “mentors,” in network news…it wasn’t like a drumming circle, or anything holistic. One of my mentors in TV news would basically throw me into extremely challenging assignments, saying, “Your deadline is in 3 hours. Don’t f**k it up.” Then, I’d see him walking across the newsroom, to go berate someone who had missed their deadline. TV news is essentially the epitome of an abusive relationship; you get screamed at because someone cares.
If you want to decide that you’re special, and you can do it on your own…okay. Just remember that the people at the very top, they all had mentors who helped smooth the way. Thinking about getting your own mentor? Finally! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and become a fan of my Facebook page, “Carlotaworldwide Creativity Yenta,” for a free consultation.