Mentoring – a much discussed topic and yet not much is said. So you read things like “mentoring is important”, “The right mentor can catapult forward your career” and then of course the question everyone would like to see answered: “How do I find a mentor?”
Well, I have no answer to that question for you, but here is a little story, that may help you to find your answer …
After my studies I absolutely wanted to go into advertising. My parents (both academics through and through) thought I had lost my mind, especially when they learned that I actually had won a place to do my PhD.
But I stuck to the decision to follow my passion and spoke to my uncle about this plan. My uncle knew the business well and took time to listen and to talk to me. Not to dissuade me, but to understand my motivations … to share with me his motivations … to understand why I was so eager to work in an agency … and why the UK was a brilliant starting point for my career.
The conversations with my uncle were short, but always very much to the point. I admired his clear and structured way of thinking. His presence. His curiosity. His wisdom. And his humour.
No matter which topic was on my mind, he always brought light into the discussion – be it about my next career move, how to solve conflicts at my work place or my worries about becoming self-employed. Whenever I needed advice I rang him … and he always rang back.
Of course he did not always have all of the answers. But what he had was life experience. So it happened that the answers I was looking for developed through our conversations. Through a change of perspective. Through stories he told me. And not seldom through a good dose of humour in situations that to me seemed all that serious.
“Just do what you think is right. Tomorrow is another day. Then you can see how things pan out.”, was one of his favourite responses. And right he was.
For as long as I can think back in my professional life I was searching for a mentor in the hope, that things would become easier and that I would find clarity. I was lucky to meet many exceptional people with whom I had the chance to hold interesting and moving conversations. From whom I have learned an awful lot … and who maybe also have learned a thing or two from me. Often I then asked myself “Is he now my mentor?” or “What do I have to do to find one?”
Fact is, the label “mentor” is completely irrelevant. The important thing is that you surround yourself with people who allow an honest exchange of opinions, who push you, who inspire you and to whom you can give something back.
And if that is the definition of a mentor, I was lucky, because I had one all along without knowing.
Thank you, Onkel Ebi.