Reading this insanely long article on how to find a mentor, I felt bamboozled by the variety of possible ways to reach out to people.

So instead, I decided to email the expert team of bloggers at Fizzle (Caleb WojcikCorbett Barr and Chase Reeves) for their thoughts on finding "the one".

Here's what they came back with:

I don’t believe you need a formal mentor to succeed. In fact, of all the successful people I know, I don’t know any who had a specifically identified ‘mentor’.
— Corbett Barr

Say what? Successful people don't have mentors?

Hmpfffff. This isn't helping guys!

I can haz mentor? Plz?

One thought: DON’T ask them if they’d ‘like to be your mentor.’
— Chase Reeves

Access denied. Again!

If I don't find a mentor, how will I get the help I need?

Who are these guys anyway? Why do all their names start with C? Maybe it's some kind of weird cult...

Ok ok... yes...  I'm deliberately spinning this out a little. 

Time to recap on their emails, without editing deliberately editing out the useful parts this time ;)

I think there are 3 kinds of people you need to be around:

1) People further along
2) People on your level (this would be the small circle or “mastermind group” idea)
3) People where you used to be (these people will usually find you)
— Caleb Wojcik

Ah, ok, I see where this is going now.

Helping other people can help me too?

That makes sense.

In fact, Caleb's advice has already had me rethinking my inbox karma.

I've been receiving a handful of emails each week via CycleLove, from people in search of advice on their design or blogging projects.

Most of which I have ignored, or written terse replies to.

D'oh.

Rest assured, I will be making a conscious effort to respond more helpfully to these kinds of enquiries from now on. (This is something which startup founders like Joel Gascoigne make a point of time-tabling into their weekly routine).

Corbett's email went on to explain that most of the successful people he knows had "informal connections with several people who were further along in the journey".

This seems like a great tip too — why have a single source of advice when you can have several?

Corbett also pointed out that "asking someone outright to be your mentor might work, or it could be awkward". 

But fear not... because Chase suggested a subtle way around this, namely to "ask for a 20m conversation or two a month" instead of a full-on mentorship.

At this point, pause for a moment, and put yourself in the shoes position of the guru you'd been thinking of approaching.

This dude, or dudette, will undoubtably be even busier than you are (but hopefully also  be smart enough not to describe themselves as busy).

Will said potential mentor want to commit to a long-term relationship with someone who's just pinged them an overly eager email?

Probably not, is the likely answer.

Chase's advice already had this covered though.

"At first you may want to just have one conversation where you have a specific question or two. Then end that with: 'Would you mind if I called you in a month or so to go over what i've done about this stuff?'".

This sounds a lot more palatable for the mentor in question. And it would give you a chance to establish a genuine rapport before getting serious about the relationship.

So, do you really need a mentor?

I'm starting to think the answer is... perhaps not.


Posted to life, careers in 2013.

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