The lost art of mentoring

Once it was commonplace to seek out someone who knew more than you and ask to study under them. The exchange of knowledge flowed in both directions. What might take someone years or months was reduced to weeks and days for you. In exchange, your accomplishments were shared with your mentor. Not enough people appreciate the art of mentoring and its usefulness is being replaced in favor of data.

Data is not inherently bad. It can and should be used to help make decisions in your business or career. It only becomes a hindrance when you don’t allow for other considerations. One of the first things I did when starting my career was find a mentor. As soon as I could I went to look for someone who was brighter and more efficient than me. I asked them questions and they helped guide me.

I purposely went and found someone who I thought I’d like to be.

A smart, technical woman who knew as much about gadgets as she did gardening. We’d talk about work, and she often gave me advice on navigating environments as a minority and how to find real balance in my life. Everything from excel spreadsheets to mindfulness techniques.

More importantly, she told me to never let anyone rush me into making a decision. That advice has been instrumental in my success. Could I have learned that on my own? Sure! Would I have learned that as quickly as I did? No. She showed me a shortcut and I’ve used that to hone my own voice. Now, when I decide on a direction, whether it’s how to make samosas or to take on a new project, I take my time deciding. I gather enough information until I feel comfortable with the decision. Each time I do that my own voice gets stronger and my decisions become faster.

Now I mentor and often, am sought out to teach people how to think. That critical thinking skill is like magic to others. I thought so at least, the first time I met with my mentor, but she broke it down for me. And that’s what I do for those I teach. It’s not enough to throw around empty platitudes of solidarity. Instead I help other young women find their voice as I was once helped. 

And in that way, we all rise.