I started to seek mentorship this past year after feeling stuck in my career. In college, mentorship always felt natural, I reached out to professors and kept reaching out to the ones whom I shared similar headspace with. But after graduation, those relationships evolved and I tended to get assigned a mentor from work. In my experience, it often felt like a forced relationship especially when your manager is made your mentor. For me, this always created an uncomfortable power dynamic, especially if I’m seeking advice that might involve me leaving that company. Which is why I have been seeking mentorship outside of my place of work.
It has taken me a long while to understand what I would like from a mentor and to distinguish what has been great about my past mentors. Over the last 8 years, I have encountered the following types of mentorship in my life:
Corporate Mentorship — This has typically been someone inside of my company who assisted to work with me on professional development. Occasionally this was defaulted to being my Manager.
Craft based Mentorship — Here you are looking to learn from someone because they are a more senior version of your trade or because you are seeking to transition to their trade.
Paid Mentorship — Some of the above can be paid mentorship but I have found that the healthiest mentorship there are no exchanges of funds. However, this has worked best for me when seeking advice for my company but less for personal advice. Professors are also a form of paid mentorship.
Peer Mentorship — This was also really easy in school, it was always my classmates but I have had a harder time transitioning this to the workplace. So I started to seek out more of this style through online communities like our Tiny Factories discord group.
Something that I discovered early was how I needed to feel like there was an exchange between me and my mentor. Otherwise, the one-sidedness either made me feel guilty or reinforced a power structure which made me uneasy. This dynamic was also harder for me to find in a company as it could easily feel like both parties were checking a professional development box.
Perhaps the most valuable thing I have learned has been from working with mentors either on joint projects or short contracts. Seeing all the soft skills they have picked up around managing projects, teams, side projects, expectation management, among other things have often shown me skills I might not have known to ask about. These have always been for short periods of time but have been amount some of the most valuable moments.
A common trap I have seen friends fall into is trying to make their hero a mentor. Hero's can be a great source of inspiration but they don't necessarily make good mentors. I would recommend learning from a hero's work but seek a mentor who you might look up to but don't idealize. Otherwise, you can end up following them blindly and diverge from what will make you, well you.
For me, the best thing feels like looking at finding a Trade-based Mentor to help me to level up my code skills and to teach me about running a start-up. While continuing if to seek Peer-based mentorship for within the Tiny Factories community.