It’s tough to find a good mentor these days. Mentors are busy. Anyone who’s an executive in their field, when they hear someone mention “mentorship”, they think of hard work. In contrast, casual mentorships work for a few different reasons. Primarily because they give you access to a tribe of people who can actually help advance your career. They also give you an opportunity to learn and to be the best version of yourself in a very low intensity way.
The Theory of Weak Ties
The power of casual mentorships goes back to the Mark Granovetter paper on the theory of weak ties. Weak ties are simply people you know that aren’t in your primary friendship groups. They are secondary and third tier friends, contacts and peers. This theory helps to understand how having a mentor or someone you know casually who really sees you in the best light possible, is more likely to suggest you for a job. They’ll be able to suggest or give you some advice when they know you’re doing well. They see little things happening in your life.
The Nature of Casual Mentorships
When it comes to having a mentor, think about what it is you’re getting out of this mentor. What do you want? He is not your therapist and not your best friend. She is someone who is simply there to guide you along your professional journey. Your mentor gets you to think about what you want as the best vision of yourself and your business. What you really want to start to think about is who are the various people that you think you could really gain some valuable insight from?
Think of this in terms of a tribal mentality. If you’re drawing on a few different groups of people, you’re drawing on casual mentors that cover a variety of sectors. You’re going to be able to get inspired and actually be able to learn from many different kinds of fields. This is very valuable because it allows you to not just follow in the footsteps of one person, but grow to become something new, different and more authentically you.
Approaching a Potential Mentor
Lastly, when I hear the word “mentorship” I think of a lot of work. I can say I’ve had some amazing people who I’ve mentored. However, it’s actually been difficult to find amazing mentors for myself, especially in a more intimate capacity. This casual mentorship perspective is something that’s worked for me and it’s beneficial for many reasons.
Don’t reach out, asking someone, “Can you be my mentor?” They’re probably going to say, “You know, I don’t have time for this right now.” But, if you’re someone who’s up-and-coming in their field, doing great work, you can say, “Hey, I’d love to chat with you for five minutes, and just get some thoughts on the direction of where I’m headed.” Or, “I’d love to get some thoughts on what you’re doing in your life.” You make it about the mentor and more about what they can offer you.
Next, you can easily turn a five-minute conversation into a 30-minute conversation and be in the good graces of that person. You’ll be able to call that person back every six months or every year, as needed, to do those kinds of check-ins. Take the word mentorship out of this relationship and turn this more into, “Hey, I’m someone who wants to learn. I’m someone who wants to gain something out of this.” Then you’ll actually find yourself with people who are way more receptive to the idea of mentoring you in this more casual and unofficial way.
Good luck finding inspirational people to guide you along your path. If you have any questions about finding mentors, or you’re interested in getting in touch with the right people, I suggest looking at friends of friends. Definitely take a look at who the peers are in your space, and who may be a few steps ahead of you. Think of this as give-and-take, how you’re adding value, how you’re inspiring their lives, and how you’re helping them grow- as well as how they’re helping you do the same.
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