When you’re tired of being the student
The power of peer mentoring
I know that I grow disheartened when I voluntarily play the role of the student, when it seems like everyone is doing awesome things except me. Speaker networking events leave me feeling a strange mixture of inspired and depressed. The countless websites posting stories from people curatorially labeled “successful” make me feel frustrated more than anything. I feel the weight of a great chasm between where the speakers stand on stage or write from their perch and where I sit in the audience.
When you’re trying to improve by exposing yourself to other people’s stories and wisdom it’s easy to overdose on events, articles, and content of any kind where the author claims they know the secrets to success. Being the consumer of such content, you put yourself in the position of the beginner, the student, which can eventually convince you that you don’t know anything on your own.
Recently, I’ve noticed a distinct change of perspective, a boost in confidence and renewed conviction that I am worthwhile, that I do know things, and that I have advice other people find valuable. This change wasn’t prompted by abstaining from other people’s stories, but more from a shift in the kind of stories I sought. Namely, I started listening and collaborating with my peers, instead of seeking mentorship from experts.
This change was made possible by my work with Up Speak, an organization I created to bring small groups of professional women together to provide a space dedicated to candid conversation and sharing. Up Speak meetings span everything from the personal (i.e. the role that work plays in our lives) to the practical (i.e. exchanging advice in shared situations). I’ve been fortunate to be a facilitator and member of four Up Speak groups, and each and every unique combination of women has continued to inspire me. While the specifics of conversations vary, everyone comes to Up Speak to connect and exchange, to both share and learn.
No one is on stage. No one is the expert. No one is saying they know better than anyone else.
Being on equal footing, Up Speak members can both walk away with new perspectives on their work and feel fulfilled having shared their lessons learned with the group. Vulnerability leads to trust, trust leads to sharing, sharing leads to learning, learning leads to increased confidence, confidence leads to opportunity.
Anyone who is tired of being the student, who has read enough “5 ways to improve..” articles, and wants a revival of self-assurance, seek out your peers. Find people who might not yet label themselves experts but who are smart, motivated, skilled, and generous. Not only deemed “experts” have wisdom to give.
**For women** If you can’t find people on your own, sign up to join an Up Speak group here to be connected to a professional peer group of awesome women.