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At the beginning of your professional career, everything in front of you can appear daunting. During these formative years, you are deciding what you want to do, who you want to be and where you are going to start. Many of us change our minds about our future career before we hit the workforce, and then there are, of course, job changes throughout your career.
The overwhelming stress of this phase can be alleviated by finding a mentor to give you guidance and help you achieve your career goals. Learning from a successful mentor in your field of interest can elevate both your professional capabilities and confidence better than any Internet search results or well-intentioned parental advice.
Read on to learn more about the benefits of having a mentor in this competitive job market, as well as tips on how to find a mentor.
The most obvious benefit of having a mentor is learning from their real-life experiences in the field. You will be privy to their personal tips for overcoming professional challenges, making difficult business decisions or determining whether graduate school is a good investment. Because they know you, mentors and their wealth of knowledge will be far more useful than generic advice columns on the web.
For Fran Hauser, president of digital for Time Inc.‘s Style and Entertainment Group, being a mentor entails giving relevant and immediately actionable advice. “It can be as simple as suggesting people to follow on Twitter to stay ahead of digital trends, or being a mentor can mean walking someone step-by-step through negotiating an offer. What is most important is that I am accessible and honest in my guidance.”
In addition to gleaning insight from your mentor’s personal experiences, you could also benefit from their vast web of connections. If your mentor doesn’t have experience with a particular problem you’re facing, they’ll probably reach out to someone who can help. Also, you never know how certain connections will be beneficial in the future — anyone you meet could be a potential business partner or a job lead.
“Your mentor’s network is your most valuable group of contacts.
“Your mentor’s network is your most valuable group of contacts. As someone who is personally invested in your success, your mentor will open up their network to you. Just be cognizant of everyone’s time — make sure you ask for specific advice or introductions. Don’t let them do the work.”
It’s a lot easier to find a mentor than you would think. Before you start your search though, it’s good to do some preparation.
Write down your expectations. What do you want to learn? How often would you like to meet with your mentor and what will their time commitment look like? How long do you anticipate this mentorship lasting? Outlining these expectations from the beginning will ensure that you and your mentor are on the same page.
Find someone you can learn from. The ideal mentor is someone you respect professionally, with a career you’d like to emulate. Search for someone who is successful in your field or a similar one. Another important factor to keep in mind is personality — find someone you like on a personal level. If you actually enjoy communicating with your mentor, the experience will be more fulfilling.
Once you’ve decided what you want out of your mentor relationship, there are a variety of sources you can consult.
Levo League is a startup focused on young women’s professional development, providing career resources needed to help them achieve both personal and professional success. Through Levo League’s online platform, young women can search for a specific mentor in their industry, or “follow” the career of various thought leaders featured on the site. Levo League boasts industry-leading mentors including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine Kate White.
Mentoring is a topic that hits close to home for Sandberg, whose recent book Lean In includes an entire chapter on the subject and its importance. She writes that “asking for input is not a sign of weakness, it’s the first step to finding a path forward.” Her mentor status on Levo League’s site creates a one-to-many dynamic, whereby she can mentor a large group of individuals with a single dose of advice. Anyone on the site can ask mentors a question, and most of these responses are shared publicly, so you can pose your own questions or search the site for existing conversations on the topic at hand.
Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to meet mentors in real life, too. But where?
A good first step is to check your city for local networks. Most cities have meetups for just about every industry or interest you could imagine. Be sure to also check out panels and summits nearby that are relevant to your field. Peruse available networking opportunities, seek out people who’ve had interesting careers and go introduce yourself.
Another great place to find a mentor offline is to tap the wealth of knowledge available around university campuses. Seek out a particularly charismatic professor or doctoral candidate, and ask them if they would grab coffee with you. Take advantage of the people with vastly different life experiences at your fingertips, be curious and don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, you’re not expected to know all the answers yourself.
U.S. teens’ passionate embrace of smartphones and a “mobile first” mentality to the Internet shows no signs of slowing down. According to the latest Pew Research on teens and technology:
The rapid adoption of smartphones and the parallel demands for a real-time, location-based and personalized Internet will clearly have a significant and potentially lasting impact on work, shopping, entertainment, the PC industry – and even the structural underpinnings of the Internet. According to Pew:
In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population. Teens are just as likely to have a cell phone as they are to have a desktop or laptop computer. And increasingly these phones are affording teens always-on, mobile access to the internet — in some cases, serving as their primary point of access.
Adoption of the mobile Web by teens appears to be accelerating.
Household income and urbanity are strongly correlated with teen smartphone use. Black and Hispanic teens are more likely to own a smartphone than their White counterparts. The smartphone could be the tool that eradicates the digital divide.
A 2012 University of Washington study noted that teens in general considered their rather high level of connectivity as necessary for effective cultural development and to prevent social isolation.
This does not mean, however, that teens are eagerly sharing these many online engagements with their parents. Smartphones, which by their very nature are designed for use by a single person – unlike a family computer in the living room, say – may make it even harder for parents to know what their children are doing online. A McAfee study last year, for example, noted that 70% of teens actively seek to hide their online behavior from their parents. (The McAfee study examined digital activity across multiple computing devices, not just smartphones.)
The shift to mobile internet use changes the ways teens access information and creates new challenges for parents who wish to monitor their children’s Internet use. Given bandwidth constraints and the fact that many websites are not yet optimized for mobile devices, teens who access content primarily on their cell phone may have to work harder to get important information. On the other hand, for parents who may wish to restrict access to their children’s exposure to certain kinds of content online, mobile devices can make it more difficult for parents to use the passive monitoring strategies they tell us they prefer, instead requiring more technical solutions.
It is not yet fully understood how the always-connected teen might alter the economy, work, even culture – though it will no doubt touch nearly every aspect of society. For example, there has already been a “drastic drop” in the number of teens getting driver’s licenses, likely due to their adoption of mobile technology and social media. Expect many more changes to come. Today’s teens have grown up online – and online increasingly means via a smartphone.
We’ve been listening for years to this bestselling author of 17 books with a storied background in publishing, entrepreneurship, and online marketing.
It’s no coincidence that Mr. Godin writes like he talks, with conviction. And that his mission has always — in one form or another — been to dispel your fear of being remarkable.
Remarkable writing requires an evaluation of the Self, and Seth offers his wisdom to all of us about writing every day and letting go of your fear.
The status quo is something he’s fought to demolish, and he wants you to get out there and do the same.
Let’s flip through the file of Seth Godin, writer …
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Seth Godin and I notice things, name them, and sometimes provoke people to make a ruckus. I’ve published 17 books as a solo author, started a few internet companies and I like to teach, sometimes via my blog.
What is your area of expertise as a writer or online publisher?
I was a book packager for 12 years, did 120 books in total for just about every publisher. For a year, I did a project as a publisher in conjunction with Amazon (see: Domino Project) and I’ve put a lot of free ebooks into the world, too.
The most important thing to know is that my high school English teacher wrote in my yearbook:
“You are the bane of my existence and it’s likely you’ll never amount to anything.”
Where can we find your writing?
How much time, per day, do you spend reading or doing research?
16 [hours]. I’m not kidding.
Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?
Getting through TSA security theater is a common first step.
What’s your best advice for overcoming procrastination?
The deadline focuses the mind, of course. The curse of the traditional writer is that the publisher wants a book no more often than once a year. So procrastination is part of the process.
But blogging? Once a day. Not every minute like Twitter, which provokes mediocre writing because there’s so much of it. But every day? Better write something, better make it good.
What time of day is most productive for your writing or content production?
I have no actual data on this, but I’m guessing the morning, because I’m a morning person. But if I’m tired, which is too often, I’m useless.
Do you generally adhere to a rigid or flexible writing system?
I’m supposed to have a system?
How many hours a day do you spend actually writing (excluding email, social media etc.)?
Do you mean typing? I don’t know, fifteen minutes. I can type fast.
Do you write every day?
Do you talk every day?
This might not work.
Who are your favorite authors, online or off?
Brene Brown, Brian Clark, Cory Doctorow, Dan Pink, David Meerman Scott, David Sedaris, Dr. Seuss, Erle Stanley Gardner, Fred Wilson, Jared Diamond, Kevin Kelly, Kurt Andersen, Lewis Hyde, Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Frauenfelder, Mitch Joel, Paul Graham, Pema Chodron, Sonia Simone, Steve Dennis, Susan Piver, Tom Peters, Zig Ziglar. [in alpha order, with apologies to the 45 people I had to leave out]
Can you share a best-loved quote?
I’m really liking this one lately,
The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Do you prefer a particular type of music (or silence) when you write?
If possible, I’ll listen to an LP of old jazz. Or a Keller Williams concert. But most often, it’s quiet.
How would you personally like to grow creatively as a writer?
Well, judging from a lot of what you read online, you’d think that some people have said that they’d like to take fewer risks, be more obvious and be less criticized. And to use more photos of cats. For me, I think it’s the opposite. Especially the cats.
Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?
This is a fancy term for fear. I avoid it by not getting it. Because I write like I talk and I don’t get talker’s block.
Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?
I wrote my last book in memory of my mom. There are so many opportunities in our world, and so many things worth fixing — I can’t imagine wasting this moment.
Would you consider yourself someone who likes to “take risks?”
What’s a risk? Like most entrepreneurs, I don’t consider what I do risky. Kiteboarding is risky. This is my work and my art, and I’m going to do it for a long time, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll do it again, but better.
What makes a writer great?
It’s in the eye of the reader, no?
What hardware or typewriter model are you presently using?
Macbook Pro, Retina, 15, with external keyboard, roller mouse, angled stand, Aeron chair, coffee mug by Lori Koop and tea (herbal) from Samovar.
And chocolate. Sometimes from Vosge or Sweetriot, always dark, usually over 80%. And Hotel Chocolat, but only when I can get it fresh.
What software are you using for writing and general workflow?
Nisus! And Typepad. I use Google way more than I remembered I did in the old days. I do my illustrations and charts in Keynote, and use that for presentations as well.
Do you have any tricks for staying focused?
Fear of wasting the opportunity.
Have you run into any serious challenges or obstacles to getting words onto the page?
Never once. Often, I get into trouble finding the words in my head, though. I’ll frequently think about something for a year before I feel good about writing it down.
How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?
Alas, it’s almost entirely a force of will. And email is breaking me.
How do you relax at the end of a hard day?
I cook dinner for the family, listen to my arcane stereo and play some bumper pool with my son. But I rarely have a hard day. I have the day I set out to have, and it’s work and I love it.
Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?
My dad taught me what it is to be generous and productive and connected. To stand up and own what you make, and to do it for others.
What’s your biggest aggravation or pet peeve at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?
After 25 years, the MacOS is getting sloppy around the edges when it should be going the other way. Flying wears me out. The TSA is a joke.
And most of all, the biggest thing, big enough that it’s not a pet, or even a peeve, is the media’s efforts to distract us from opportunities and urgencies by inflaming every small conflict into an epic game show.
Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.
Well, if I have dinner with a dead author, he wouldn’t be very much fun, would he?
Most authors aren’t particularly good dinner companions, because they’re working so hard on the internal war of art that they don’t invest much effort in conversation. Michael Crichton, for example, was nearly impossible to talk to. Isaac Asimov, on the other hand, was a total hoot, and I loved hanging out with him.
With those disclaimers, and without bending over backward in search of the clever answer, I think I’d go with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you have a motto, credo or general slogan that you live by?
Hey, I’m in the motto business, with a sideline in credos. I think that having philosophical boundaries is a good idea.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Opening doors for people who will open doors for people.
If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?
Right here, right now. This is my choice.
What would you like to do more of in the coming year?
Find beginner’s mind more often.
Can you offer any advice to writers and content producers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”
Keep your overhead low, ship often, be generous, be patient. It’s going to be fine.
Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.
I don’t want you to connect with me online. I want you to connect with other people online, to make a ruckus, to raise the bar, to join a community, found a community and lead a community! You don’t need me, pick yourself.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
You’re on the right track. Persist. Make better art.
Nothing says more about a writer than the space they use to create.
The revolution begins here.
In true Renaissance fashion Mr. Godin, in his perch above the Hudson River, proves to be an original, Rubik’s cube, exotic chocolate, Shepard Fairey print, and all.
Fanbassador: A fan of a brand who acts in an ambassadorial way.
Shoptimization: how apps can be used to optimise the in-store shopping experience for the consumer, usually by reducing costs.
Digi-tail: augmented reality and other digital stuff in-store to boost the shopping experience.
Wearable multitasking: “Watches that socially connect, work as credit cards and have games on them” – basically, wearable technology.
Fashionizing: making normal objects fashionable. Diet Coke being branded with Jean Paul Gaultier was an example.
Shoppertainment: “new brand experiences and memorable entertainment” in-store and online, such as IKEA holding a slumber party.
Mocial: Yes, it’s mobile and social.
Data is the new soil: A bastardisation of Gerd Leonhard’s phrase
Phablet: basically, big smartphones which aren’t quite tablets.
Pivot: when a startup decides that a change of business model is needed.
Value add: or, in plain English, added value.
Omnichannel: what’s wrong with multichannel?
Learnings: as in lessons learned. Learnings isn’t a word.
Reach out: commonly used by PRs. “I’m reaching out to you with the news that…”
Swim lane: a phrase for a person’s area of responsibility within a business.