The fastest path on your growth journey is getting a good mentorship in place.
I have been fortunate to have learnt a lot of things from the masters themselves. By the end of this post, you should have more clarity on getting yourself a good mentor.
Most people have a misconception around the concept of mentoring. Saying to someone that “I want you to mentor me.”, can become awkward for the other party to respond to at your first interaction.
- Find a domain that you’re looking to level up in!
- Look around for people in that domain. Shortlist folks with whom you’d like to switch places with. Deciding whom to learn from is as important as what to learn. Only work with folks whose path resonates with you.
- It’s time to stalk, erm, research. See what they are currently working on. Are there areas you could help them?
- Approach them with a clear question on which you want some advice on.
- Define a clear set of tasks that you’ll need to do before approaching them again. Seek feedback on your execution, but don’t take it personally.
- Have clarity on the type of mentor. I define two types: one, who is way more senior (say 5-10 years) than you. You get to learn a lot of life skills from them. The other is a peer (who has roughly a similar experience as you), and this presents a good opportunity to learn together.
- The mentorship needn’t be active in nature. Most of my mentors have been passive, i.e. they didn’t know that they had a role to play in my life. And that’s okay!
- Books can serve as a mentor as well.
- Use the Pygmalion effect to your advantage. It’s the phenomenon whereby others’ expectations of a target person affect the target person’s performance. So if an active mentor has high expectations from you, it’ll generally lead to better performance.
- Respect your mentor’s time. Remember that (s)he is a volunteer and taking time out of their busy schedule to guide you. Don’t wait for the mentor to follow up with you. The onus is on you to check-in with them regularly on your progress.
My Ever-Growing List of Mentors
I prefer to have a mentor for a single skill that I’m looking to learn more of. I’m good at ignoring other aspects of the person and just focus on the one that matters. I don’t know how, but I just developed it over a period of time. Here’s a list of my mentors, for you to take a reference from:
- College Peer, 2012, passive, taught me to put myself out there and learn things by doing.
- College Peer, 2014, passive, taught me how to execute an idea from scratch.
- Work Peer, 2015, passive, taught me the importance of presentation / public-speaking.
- College Peer, 2016, passive, taught me to always take a bigger challenge and keep growing. He’s probably the only one in this list whom I’m still in touch with!
- Work Peer, 2016, active, taught me java and how to write clean code.
- Work Senior, 2017, active, taught me how to solve real-world problems using technology and that consistency is the key.
- Work Peer, 2018, passive, taught me php and to ditch perfectionism.
- Twitter Senior, 2019, passive, taught me how to organize events.
- Recently, I have started to read more (on track to read 25+ books this year) and I’ve found this to be the most effective way for learning things quickly. It’s an underutilized hack where you get full access to the author’s mind!
I’m probably missing many people in the above list. The point I’m trying to make is that there isn’t one person whom I can credit all my learnings to, but rather lots of people along the way. Your journey could be different, but you have nothing to lose by starting small now. Also, take some time to pay it forward whenever you can.