‘Overthinking It’: Mentorship doesn’t have to be scary

“I don’t want to impose…” We’ve all said, or at least thought, those words at one point or another. Or quite often, if you’re anything like me. There’s something a little broken about the way people have taught themselves that there’s some sort of shame in asking people for things. We never want to be seen an inconvenience, often over minor things.

I was told throughout my studies that Mentorship is a key aspect of growing your career. It made sense: find a person in the industry who can help you figure out just what to do going forward, in a world where things aren’t as well laid out in front of you, like they are in school. Then you can grow as a young professional and become all successful and stuff. But there was one major hurdle to this plan, and it was in step one: How on Earth do I find someone who wants to take time out of their day to mentor little ol’ me?

Mentor’s don’t have to be formal

I was trapped in this notion that a mentor had to be this image of a successful professional; this concept of a person in a fancy office, wearing a suit, and stating “Your next task is…”. And surely a mentor like that doesn’t actually exist, right? Well maybe they do, but it doesn’t matter because it turns out that mentors are everywhere!

I recently found a really great article on mentorship by Jennifer Aldrich, that pointed out that “You don’t need 10 years of experience to be a mentor — you just need more than your mentee.” It also included a link to another page where potential mentors and mentees could connect in the comments section. So I did!

Learning should be conversational

From that page, I connected with a UX designer in Michigan and next thing I knew, we were following each other on Twitter and DMing about conferences and InVision articles (a fantastic resource for UI/UX, by the way). And that’s all there was to it, really. Part of me is still waiting for the Official Certificate of Menteeship™, but is one coming? Nope. And that’s the thing, the whole process is as formal or informal as you want it to be. In fact, the first thing he said was that his “mentoring style is more open ended and not really structured” due to a chaotic schedule, and that’s fine, cause mine is just as crazy!

I still struggle with the thoughts that tell me I have to limit how many questions I ask at a time, or how often I message him because I want to avoid being an inconvenience, but overcoming that first hurdle of initiating this sort of contact ended up not being as bad as I thought at first. At some point you have to just take a deep breath and tell yourself that the only one overthinking to this level is yourself, and just take the leap. Cause you’ll never know what kind of doors might open when you do, and the surest way to fail is not to try.