Mentors in Disguise: How to Identify, Solicit, and Implement Good Advice

Posted by Robyn Savidge on April 18, 2017

So, we all know it’s beneficial to have a mentor. The first step is finding one. What types of mentors are there? Where can you find one? And how do you implement good advice?

During college, you learned a lot from your professors, your supervisor at your part-time job, and your advisor with whom you spent hours over the course of your degree mapping out the steps to your future career. Once you graduated, you felt at a loss. Your mentors had disappeared, and you had no way of navigating life post-graduation. You’re not alone! 

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Former Digital Creative apprentice, Reese Garcia, knew it was important to have professionals in his field to look up to and learn from. Fortunately, he demonstrated that mentorship doesn’t always come in the form of a structured relationship, and often it’s not labeled as “mentoring”. It’s a much more fluid and, sometimes, a disguised process. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes—the types of mentorship you can acquire vary greatly, but all are beneficial.

EXAMPLE OF MENTORSHIP

Reese discovered his mentor through following top PPC blogs and agencies. After reaching out to Disruptive Advertising in Utah and asking if he could visit and shadow them for a few days, Reese traveled to the agency, learned all he could about PPC, and applied what he learned at his own agency. His success in finding a mentor shows that professionals are willing to help! Reese gained valuable insight and accelerated his PPC learning and expertise through mentorship.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A MENTOR?

A mentor is someone with more experience, higher skill level, or a different background or perspective from you. They could be someone with relevant skills in a different context—a different industry, perhaps. Mentors are everywhere, and many are in disguise! A great quality to look for in a mentor is the desire to continually learn. A good mentor enjoys mentoring because it educates them just as much as the mentee, and teaching is ultimately the best way to learn.

Now that you know mentors come in all shapes and sizes, remember to look beyond titles and search for the people with the knowledge or skills you need and the innate drive to learn and grow.

TYPES OF MENTORING

Mentoring doesn’t always come in the form of an ongoing, structured relationship, such as the typical professor and student relationship. Mentoring occurs in three ways:

  • One-way mentoring — Blogs, books, conferences, informative videos, and podcasts are all forms of one-way mentoring and are terrific ways to learn, even if there is no one-on-one interaction. Seth Godin is a great example of a marketing mentor. Other top marketing influencers to watch and learn from this year are Grant Cardone, Neil Patel, John Rampton, and Chris Stoikos.
  • One-time or sporadic mentoring — Also known as flash mentoring, one-time or sporadic mentoring is a one-time meeting or discussion that is a valuable learning experience with limited time commitment. This can be especially effective when seeking specific advice and can be achieved through a simple sit-down meeting at a coffee shop or over lunch.
  • Ongoing — Mutually beneficial, this type of mentoring is consistent, although frequency might vary, and implies a long-term relationship between the mentor and mentee. The mentor assists the mentee in learning and growing, and both parties benefit because the best teachers often learn from their students as well. In our example above, Reese’s mentorship was one-time when he went to visit Disruptive Advertising in Utah, but it evolved into an ongoing mentorship.

“Assisting in the development of others is one of the most effective ways to learn” (Tweet this).

TYPES OF MENTORS

You’re ready to find a great mentor, and you think one-on-one mentoring would be most beneficial for you, but where do you begin your search? People in these roles might be the perfect fit.

  • Industry expert — This is the person you look up to as a role model and want to become in 10 to 15 years. How did they get to where they are today? What tools did they use to achieve their goals?
  • Client — Learning from your customers gives fresh industry insight from the most direct source. This indirect type of mentoring takes more effort since you need to interpret and apply relevant takeaways from their experience and situation. What are their pain points? What is most important to them? What expectations do they have? What is the context of their situation? Identify the holistic persona—age, gender, income, location, industry, goals and challenges.
  • Manager — This is the person you work with on a consistent basis and someone you strive to be. Do you look up to your manager and aim to follow in their footsteps? Do you go to them for advice on relevant skill development? Can they provide you with valuable insight into climbing the career ladder? You may find your manager is an excellent mentor, whether you call them a mentor or not.
  • Peers — In “When Leaders are Scarce, Employees Look to Peers”, Ethan Rouen discusses how “many companies are developing programs that have peers in different divisions or locations mentor each other to provide fresh ideas about career paths, help employees develop new skills, and keep them engaged with their colleagues and the company in general.” By learning from someone who’s at approximately the same experience or skill level as you, but in a different context, you’re gaining valuable insight.

HOW CAN YOU TAKE ACTION?

  • Identify mentors in your life — Who are they and what type of mentor are they? What expertise and experience do they have? What type of mentoring could they provide?
  • Actively look for new things to learn — Listen for pieces of advice that may be disguised in a casual conversation—don’t miss out on great advice just because you weren’t looking for it!
  • Ask good, thoughtful questions — Why does this process work? How did you get to where you are now? What do you wish you had done differently? Why? What challenges have you faced? How have you learned from them? Has anything you’ve recently read or learned shifted your approach? According to Sarah Mccord in “How to Catch and Keep a Quality Mentor,” “It’s old-fashioned to assume that the mentor-mentee relationship is a one-way street. You’ll want to follow up and ask how you can make your conversations mutually beneficial...It keeps the relationship balanced and can add to its longevity.”

“Getting a mentor is just the first step. Keeping one requires building a lasting relationship.” (Tweet this)

  • Apply what you learned — It’s simple enough, but easy to overlook. The purpose of being mentored is to grow. Use the knowledge you’ve gained to become exponentially better than before!
  • Expand your mentor network — Having one or two deeply invested mentors is great, but having a network of mentors is even better. Look for individuals in different industries, from different cultures, and with different backgrounds and build a network of talented, knowledgeable people who are committed to success. In Forbes’ article on finding a mentor, Bonnie Marcus states it’s important to “make a list of who you want to be when you grow up. And then find a way to make them part of your life. Don’t limit yourself to one person.” Remember to only expand your network of mentors after capitalizing on your existing mentors. Be intentional.

Mentors are more common than you might think, though they may not always come in the shape or size you expect. Look for voracious learners and learn with them. Reach out to professionals you look up to. Develop a mentor network, and apply what you learn. Like Reese, you may find a long-term mentor from a one-time experience!

Are you ready to find your perfect mentor? Let us help you! Start by downloading our Apprenticeship Manifesto to learn more about mentoring and how apprenticeships are a form of transformational, ongoing learning.
Start Reading the Apprenticeship Manifesto

Topics: For Recent Grads

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