The Importance of Finding a Mentor

Finding a mentor is one of the most important things in life.

I know that sounds like a dramatic statement, an exaggeration perhaps…but I dare you to challenge it. Mentors are kind of like the idea, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Except with mentors, it’s the opposite. You don’t know how valuable mentors are until you need one.

A mentor is someone who can guide you through those not-so-great experiences. Someone who is there to validate what you are going through and help you work through it. I used to think that a mentor was someone who provided guidance for all aspects of life, but as I’m getting older, I’m realizing that’s not necessarily the case.

When I am feeling musically inclined, I email my piano teacher for Chopin suggestions. A musical mentor. When I am feeling stuck in a writer’s block, I email my writing coach. A writing mentor. And when I am feeling discouraged at work, I can walk into my supervisor’s office and ask her advice. A work mentor.

A mentor is someone who has most likely gone through your experience and is able to offer helpful advice. Someone who has been there before. But because we all have so many different experiences, it’s hard to have one “life mentor.” But it’s easier to connect with people who have similar interests and similar experiences.

When going through any kind of difficult twentysomething period, I’ve realized that I can’t really rely on my musical mentor, my writing mentor, or even my work mentor. It’s nice to hear about their perspective, but it’s even nicer to hear from other twentysomethings who are going through similar experiences in the same time period.

So, here are my tips and tricks to finding your very own twentysomething mentor:

  1. Find another Twentysomething
    • This may sound strange. Usually, when looking for a mentor, you want an older, wiser person who is able to give you their words of wisdom. But sometimes, especially as a twentysomething, I just need another twentysomething person to tell me that they’ve also had drunken encounters before and regretted it the morning after. Or that paying rent nearly cleared out their bank account. Or that grad school is completely soul-sucking. You need to be able to relate to your twentysomething mentor, and even more importantly, they need to be able to relate to you.
  2. Embrace the Vulnerability
    • If there’s one overarching theme that I’ve learned about being a twentysomething, it’s that vulnerability is a consistent feeling across all twentysomething experiences. The security of college is gone, the security of living at home or with friends is taken…hell, you may not even have a secure job, relationship, friend group, etc. There is no stability at all. Hence, vulnerability. If you go about your whole mentor/mentee relationship skirting real-life adult issues, nothing is going to get any better. Take a risk and be vulnerable. If you feel you have no friends, it’s okay to say that. If you hate your job, be honest! Be honest, take risks, and embrace the vulnerability.
  3. Listen with Open Ears
    • You can’t  have a mentor and not be open to at least hearing what they have to say. They might tell you that you need to get your life together, that you are having way too many one night stands, or that the number of Chinese take-out containers in your apartment is getting out of control. Take it in stride. Maybe your life is a mess, maybe you really enjoy meeting new people in that way, and maybe you just love Chinese food. It’s cool. Or maybe there is some truth in their advice. Either way, take everything with a grain of salt, but still be open to listening.

And when all is said and done, make sure to thank you mentor, because without them, who knows where you’d be?