The Template

Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

How to Find a Mentor (Hint: They’re Everywhere)

When you need a hand, there it is.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mentor? Someone to rely on when you don’t know the right answer?

Sure would make life easier.

In fact, a mentor is a critical part of finding success in the real world. Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote a piece on September 9 called “It Takes a Mentor.” Friedman references a Gallup poll that shows people who have a mentor are “twice as likely to be engaged with their work and thriving in their overall well being.”

Gallup also found only 22 percent of the college grads surveyed said they had a mentor.

That’s a low number, and I know why.

Mentors are really hard to find. 

With News To Live By, I often think “I wish I had someone I could email right now and ask, ‘OK, what do I do now?'”

But that singular person is like a winning Powerball ticket; it’s almost impossible to find. If you have a mentor, that’s huge. But in general, older, respected adults are busy and not available to address all of our snags or hiccups. They have lives.

See: 8 Reasons Why the Only Person You Can Truly Rely on is You

Then the other day, it hit me: Even though I have not found a “mentor” in the classic sense, I continue to discover people who act as my mentor when I need advice on specific issues. Three short examples:

– Brittany Mullins, who runs the healthy lifestyle blog Eating Bird Food, when I had no clue how to create a website.

– Michael Schwartz, who manages Richmond BizSense, when I didn’t understand e-newsletters.

– Chris Ciardi, who runs the web shop HypeFX, when I wanted to learn SEO.

I even treat NTLB readers as “mentors” when I ask about career topics they prefer and how the site can improve. I need direction, and they show me the way.

Mentors are everywhere. We live in a hyper-connected world and no matter the question, you’re bound to have someone a click away with the answer. So let’s change the term from “mentor” to “mentor for the moment.” Plus, you need to spread around the favors and not burden one person with all of your challenges.

If you need help with grad school applications, find someone in your world with the proper experience.

Trouble with cold calls? Ask a friend who’s a sales wiz.

We don’t need one mentor — we have each other! Between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and your email contacts, you own a vast network of topic experts. The next time you need help, take 30 seconds and search for a friend or colleague who might be the ideal resource. Don’t worry: people love to give their advice.

Gallup and Thomas Friedman are right. Mentors do make the difference and keep us on the path. We just need to redefine what a “mentor” means in 2014 and beyond.

Feel free to use the email template below to start the conversation with your next “mentor for the moment.”

Hi ______,

I hope all is well.

I am working on [the task at hand; for instance “my applications for grad school”] and would appreciate your input. I know you have experience with [the task] and can give me some pointers to make my work even better.

I realize your time is valuable so please let me know what you can do. I can email more information, or we can set up a time to talk.

Thanks so much, and I hope to hear from you.

– Your Name

Email Address

Phone Number

 Featured photo: Tawheed Manzoor (Flickr)


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