On Mentorships

A long time ago, I came across Ellen Chisa’s post on mentorship. The gist is that instead of focusing on finding mentors to show you the path, focus on what you are interested in learning, and see who can help you learn more about it.

Diana Kimball has also written about the dynamics of mentorships. They work when mentors and mentees are able to express their mutual vulnerability. She also talks about the unnaturalness that comes with defining a mentorship relationship before it exists.

So here are my takeaways on how I currently think about mentorships:

  1. Forget the idealized version of a life mentor that is your coach. No one person should have all that power over you. No one wants that responsibility.
  2. The range of questions and challenges you will face are better served by a set of individuals rather than one person. Build relationships where you can talk about the different challenges you will face.
  3. Experience and perspectives are relative. Mentors don’t need to reach a universal threshold of success to be mentors. As long as the person on the other side is providing a new perspective, that should be enough to help you unblock your immediate challenge.
  4. If experience is relative, this means that you have the potential to help someone else with less experience. To figure out how you can help others, look back to the work you’ve been doing in the past year. Think of the challenges or difficult decisions that you’ve come across. Whether you’ve solved them or not, sharing your thought process is enough of a starting point to offer support.