I didn’t discover the value of mentors until later in life, and I wish I would have sooner. It can get harder to find a mentor for adults, perhaps because we’re afraid to ask for help, or perhaps because those mentors are more willing to help younger mentees. No matter your age, mentors can help you avoid mistakes in your career (and life) because they’ve already made them and learned from them. They can give you honest advice and support if you’re down. They can help you make connections and find jobs. I never knew how to find a mentor for my career and was lucky enough to have mine find me.
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A mentor a simply a person who has experience and can act as a trusted advisor in your life. It’s usually an informal relationship, although there are more formal services that offer mentorship as well.
If you’re in the market for a writing mentor, there are some easy ways to find someone willing to guide you, according to New York Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. He told us he was fortunate enough to have Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson (um, wow) mentor him as a kid.
To go deeper with someone, and ask them to become a regular mentor, many writers’ groups offer mentorship programs.
Jeanne V. Bowerman, Editor-in-Chief at Pipeline Artists, has a great list of dos and don’ts for finding a writing mentor. And the International Screenwriters’ Association has a resource page for mentorship, too. Below, NPR offers up some advice for how to find the right mentor, how to make the ask, and how to be a good mentee.
How to Find a Mentor
To find the right mentor:
Know your goals
Look for someone you look up to
Research those you admire ahead of time
Look at your existing network for opportunities
To make the ask:
Have a one-minute pitch ready, including your goals and why you chose this person
Consider an informal meeting with the person ahead of time to gauge interest
Genuinely complement the person, and tell them what you get out of your relationship
Be clear about how often you want to meet and for how long so they understand the time commitment
Offer up an agenda for each meeting, so it stays focused, on task, and time efficient
To be a good mentee:
Have specific, achievable goals
Meet consistently and have an agenda
Take all feedback, including positive, negative, and constructive
Take notes and follow up via email
Make sure there’s an end-date for your goals and your meetings
Maintain boundaries between professional and personal life, unless this person is also a personal mentor
Consider having more than one mentor
We get by with a little help from our (writing) friends,