GAAAAAAH! If I hear one more person tell me how they have a rockstar mentor and how it took them just courage and an email to get there, I am going to jump off a cliff.
Mentorship is a topic near and dear to my heart.
I have some incredible mentors who I didn’t establish a relationship with by sending an email nor by being gifted with courage by the Wizard of Oz himself. Here’s what happened: I was at a hackathon once and I was going on and on about how I wasn’t a feminist and a woman asked me, “Do you have a vagina?” to which I replied yes cause yes… yes I do.
She then proceeded to ask me, “Do you want to be in charge of it?” A question that received another resounding yes from me.
“Then you are a feminist!”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I met Karen Schulman Dupuis — a woman I love dearly and who is also one of my mentors. However, we didn’t declare a mentor and mentee relationship there and then. That took three years and lots of opportunities getting to know each other.
So for the love of God, stop trying to perpetuate the myth that you can find a mentor via an email or over a cup of a coffee. The relationship-building aspect of it takes time, oodles of time.
Also, someone doesn’t have to be “officially” your mentor for them to give you valuable advice. Kirstine Stewart, VP Media at Twitter Inc, was once speaking at a Salesforce event and she recounted an incident where someone tried to take credit for her work, a situation many of us are all too familiar with.
She went on to share her experience on how she countered that and took back her power, a strategy that I have used countless times since then in my own life. I have had brief interactions with her and she is absolutely amazing, but I haven’t asked her to be my mentor, however this incident has changed my life.
One of the most common questions I receive regarding mentorship is: who should I look for as a mentor?
Well, in order to receive an answer to that you have to answer a couple more questions. Who do you learn from? Who has changed your life for the better? Who do you turn to when you need advice? Well, those people right there are your mentors. Maybe it is your mum, your dad, your best friend, your boss but there you have it, it is really as simple as that.
I know, I know… “butttt Ria those are not legit mentors, how do I get to have tea with the brightest and finest minds in the industry? Why won’t they reply to my email, ZOMG!”
Patience, my friend, is not a virtue for no reason. Whenever you hear people tell you how they got kick-ass mentors via an email, here’s what they are not telling you:
- Getting those kind of mentors took time.
- They probably received a hundred rejections before hearing a yes.
- They hustled… hard! (Although No One Gives a Sh*T about your hustle.)
Without sounding ultra cocky, I will share a tip with all of you. My work with Vinetta Project, Women Who Code and other organizations has afforded me many opportunities to have conversations with some brilliant people. Getting involved in initiatives like that opens many doors.
If you give, then you generally receive the love from the universe in buckets. So there you have it, my two cents on finding a mentor.