Mentor: An experienced and trusted advisor (noun) Oxford dictionaries
During a leadership class I took in grad school I coined the phrase, “No one is Zeus on the mountaintop.” What I meant is that no one is truly omniscient in their knowledge base. We are all at different places and phases in our learning, growth, and expertise. To further develop growth, we need to surround ourselves with people who have gone down a similar path before us. By forming relationships with people who have more experience than we do, we not only get to learn from them, but they can also provide a safe place for us to go to when we are faced with challenges.
I am a true believer in the benefits inherent in a mentor/mentee relationship. Throughout the duration of my career in healthcare, I have sought out mentors to help me navigate my professional growth. When I moved into the publishing world, I immediately sought out mentors who could help me learn about this new side of world I had only known as a reader.
The business side of publishing your book can be a very scary place. Authors I have spoken to have some advantage of bringing books into the marketplace, but come in without any business experience of developing successful sales/marketing plans in one’s history to sell them in a highly competitive market. This can be like trying to navigate a rowboat in the ocean during a tropical storm. It is difficult and you might not survive the journey without minimally being battered and torn.
Mentoring isn’t a one-sided benefit for the mentored, helping others allows mentors to further develop and hone their own skills. Furthermore, it allows them to develop their own business network for the purpose of business expansion.
Benefits of mentoring
Some of the top benefits of mentorship include:
- Professional advice
- Improving skills
- The fostering of long lasting relationships
How to find a mentor:
- Facebook and Facebook groups specifically geared towards authors
- Twitter: follow those with recognized names in the industry and get to know them
- Writer’s sites such as Wanatribe
What to look for in a mentor?
- First and foremost, a great knowledge base dependent on YOUR level of experience. For example, a newly published debut author is not going to require the same level of knowledge of mentoring as someone who is more experienced or has numerous titles under their belt. A new author is going to need to learn the basics. A more experienced author may be looking to expand depth of knowledge and learn new skills that more experienced, successful authors have already achieved.
- A good reputation as a mentor
- Someone who is incredibly secure in their journey and their current level. It is CRITICAL that they not be threatened by his/her peers which could result in a sabotaging of the mentee. Again, vet your mentors. Ask questions not only of your potential mentor, but other peers in your network.
When mentoring goes bad?
Not all mentors are good and not everyone has the emotional intelligence, insight, or best of intentions. It is critical, like in all relationships, that the mentor/mentee one be healthy and beneficial for both.
I wrote in an earlier Author CEO piece about a situation where an author reached out to a somewhat known author that she respected for help through the publishing process. This author offered to take this newbie author under her belt and assist her through the early scary time of being a new author. Instead of this author mentoring her, this person sabotaged this author and told her that she would never be successful in the publishing world. As a result, she stopped writing until she had the courage to reach out to others and discuss her pain.
If a mentor isn’t good for you, don’t think you need to settle. Just because someone doesn’t fit as a mentor, that doesn’t mean that they won’t fit as a networking partner. These relationships are totally different: the mentoring relationship has a bit more intimacy and trust that isn’t necessarily required in a networking relationship.
On an important final note, the mentee must not confuse critical advice for negative advice. There is a difference. For example, one of my healthcare mentors knows a whole lot about my insecurities and weaknesses that I have in the workplace. Because he is a great mentor, when he coaches me he doesn’t avoid the hard topics. If anything, he will remind me of what I need to work on and coach TO those areas. I never doubt that he has my best interest at heart and that he wants me to be successful. So mentees should be open to receiving constructive criticism prior to developing a relationship with a mentor because, remember, no one is Zeus on the Mountaintop.
How have some of your favorite mentors helped you? As a mentor, what advice would you give to those new to mentoring or mentees on selecting mentors?