40 Tips To Re-Invent and Re-Launch at Age 40, 50, or Beyond. (Tip #3)
If you want to reinvent your life and discover success in new ways, find a mentor (or mentors) who will show you the paths toward success.
Too often we look at career and life options and think their is only one way to achieve success. However, in many industries and business disciplines there are several options that will lead people to their goals. What we see from the outside looking in is often different from what those who are doing it experience on a day to day basis.
The world of professional speaking is a good example. What most people think is the life of a speaker is very different than the realities. It can look fun and glamorous, and while there are many perks, people miss that it is a lot of work to grow a career as a paid presenter. Most observe a speaker on stage during their talk or in the few minutes before they head back to the airport. All the preparation, research, rehearsal, travel, travel delays, and lonely nights away from family are not understood. When I first changed directions to become a full time speaker I had already spent countless hours building friendships with those who were working speakers. I had found serveral who were willing to mentor me along the way, and their guidance was paramount to my future. They showed me the realities of the industry, and that made it much easier to grow my own career.
A mentor / mentee relationship can be many things. It can be a formal arrangement or a causal friendship. The mentor can be a peer or a more experienced professional. The key is to be able to learn from what your teacher has experienced in the past and to take those lessons into account to shorten your learning curve.
I have heard of some who claim their mentors are historical figures or industry legends whom they have never met. They create ongoing conversations in their minds with Abe Lincoln, Henry Ford, or Martin Luther King. The key is that they are seeking the advice in the writings and reputations of their heros and getting guidance from them (in albeit an unorthodox manner).
There are many ways to find a mentor, but you have to be looking for the right person. It can take time, and not everyone who is successful is the right choice. The old saying is "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". The first step is identifying someone, but then making sure the other person is willing can be just as hard. Making the ask can be scary as people fear rejection and do not know how to describe what they are seeking. Additionally many potential mentors do not know what is involved in such a role, and they are often trepidation about the time commitment and responsibility.
Yet when it is right, it is right. It is not just the mentee that learns and grows from the relationship, but also the mentor. Experience alone is not how we teach others, so having a positive connection and an ongoing give and take makes the situation "win/win" for all involved.
Many people advertise and charge money to "mentor", but I believe a real mentor is not seeking financial compensation. Executive Coaching is not the same as being a mentor. Coaching is very task oriented and often based on a time-limit (set by the length of the financial agreement) while mentorship is based on the relationship and is open-ended in regards to time, based on the mutually agreed upon skills development. The key is to not mix up the two.
I am not saying coaching is a bad thing, I have worked with coaches who have helped me overcome several career road-blocks, but the best mentors are there for the long-haul and transcend into meaningful friendships.
If you are looking to make a change, it is important that you find others who have "been there and done that", as otherwise you are going into your new world with blinders on. It is easy to make assumptions without experience, but those who have lived the life you desire know what is true.
Good luck, as finding a good mentor will have un-matched influence on your success.
Have A Great Day.