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How do you find a mentor?
Before you win friends and influence people, it helps to know how to win friends and be influenced by people. By observing others, you'll identify qualities you wish you had. Then you can write down some goals for personal improvement.
If you want to become like someone else, you need to spend time with someone else. That's pretty obvious. We don't grow well in a vacuum. It doesn't really matter if you're an introvert or an extrovert. If you want to learn something and have it truly change you, you need to seek out advice from someone else who's done something like it. The best way is to interact directly. You'll find out not just the information, but the motivation behind the information. Instead of becoming an encyclopedia, you'll become a more aware human being.
If you're like most of the human race, starting this kind of conversation is awkward and difficult. Yes, you actually need to try to get someone's attention. The dividing line between being a pupil and being an annoyance can get pretty thin sometimes.
So how do you do it?
- Be proactive. Go do it.
People are generally impressed with those who recognize that something needs to be done and then take initiative. Be that kind of person. If it takes courage to do something, it takes a lot more to do nothing and expect things to change anyway. (Minimize courage?)
- Be nice. "You can catch more flies with honey," said my great-grandmother, "than you can with vinegar."
Actually, I have no idea if my great-grandmother said that. I never met her. But she probably would have said something like that. If you want to establish a relationship with someone, be friendly. Yes, that requires some work on your part. If you never get to this foundational step, you'll have a hard time.
Say hello. Start a conversation. They probably don't bite.
- Be relevant. You don't have to be an expert on the subject that you're trying to become an expert on, but at least be on subject, please.
Offer something. Or parrot back something interesting (or controversial!) you heard from someone else. It stimulates conversation.
- Be lighthearted. It's been said that one should avoid humor, but not avoid humor entirely. See here for maven David Pogue's take on when humor shows up in tech. Consider also the advice of Oscar Wilde: "Seriousness is the last refuge of the shallow."
Don't take yourself so seriously that you hurt something. This doesn't mean that you need to be the comedian all the time, but it does help to be flexible enough to inject levity in an otherwise tense situation. People will come to appreciate your skill in this.
You don't need to be absurd, but you can be relevant without being dry.
- Be sincere. If people don't think you mean it, you probably don't stand a chance.
But that's not the point. Don't make them THINK you mean it. Just mean it! If you don't mean it, please, don't waste time. Do something that matters to you.
Growth can happen fast or slow, sometimes in our control, and sometimes not. But the alternative to growth is not stagnation. It's regression by proportion. If you're not growing while progress is taking place around you, you're falling behind rapidly. It's time for you to get up and move.
Speaking of which...