Informal Mentorship

In the last ten to fifteen years many corporations have embraced formal mentoring programs as a career development method. This works fine for corporate employees but what do you do if you work solo? What if you’re an entrepreneur?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve given some thought to folks who have influenced me since I started my own business. It finally occurred to me that these folks are mentors and what’s more I didn’t need to enlist them in a formal mentoring program. I didn’t need to force them to make a time commitment. In fact, none of them probably even know that I consider them mentors.

Three examples come to mind. When I first started my company, I looked around for folks similarly engaged and rather than view my find as “competition”, I viewed him as someone from whom I could learn a lot. To this day, if I find out that Ken Molay of Webinar Success is giving an instructional webinar, I’ll try to attend it. Ken and I have corresponded a few times over the past couple of years but I seriously doubt Ken would consider himself my mentor. Regardless, he is.

Two other more recent examples are Mike Wesely and Shama Hyder. I’m currently in the process of expanding my consultant practice from strictly web conferencing to the broader web communications space, including social media (a fact you will soon see reflected on my web site and here in this blog). It was really by just pure good fortune that I stumbled upon these folks.

Mike Wesely hosts an almost daily web broadcast which teaches folks how to use Twitter to enhance their brand. I feel that Mike’s approach and the people I’ve met through him have greatly improved my use of Twitter.

Shama Hyder is a social media, online marketing guru. Her can-do style and sheer energy resonated with me immediately. I spend at least a part of every week watching Shama’s videos on Shama.TV and reading her posts.

Now if you asked either Mike or Shama if they are my mentor, they’d say no. I make no time demands on either of them but I still get just about everything one needs from a mentor by reading their posts or attending their sessions. What’s more, I know that if I ever needed concrete advice from either of them I’d get it (within reason of course …. there is a boundary between free advice and paying for their time that must be respected).

The bottom line here is don’t think that because you work solo that you’re shut out of the mentoring loop. Interestingly, the current social media paradigm dictates that we share ourselves with our business partners and prospective and current clients. As a result, there are experts out there who are really giving of themselves such that you don’t need to set up weekly meetings with them in order to get a sense of who they really are. Find yourself two or three experts in your field. See if their approach resonates with you and then actively follow them. You’ll learn loads and if you have the courage to reach out to them with questions (or even advice FOR them), you may find you have a new colleague, friend, and mentor!