This Holiday Season, Here’s the Best Gift You Can Give

Between December rent, food, gifts for the fam, and the occasional splurge on ourselves — sometimes a person just goes into a trance and spends too much at Patagonia, you know? — by the time we reach the end of the “giving season,” it can feel like there’s not a whole lot left for us to give.

Plus (and we’ll try not to sound too much like Werner Herzog here), even though we’re material beings who can usually ride the holiday-gift high right through New Year’s Day, if we’re not investing in the kind of gifts that keep on giving, that post-present glow will eventually fade. So…who’s excited for the holidays?!?!

Seriously, what’s the solution to the holiday brain/wallet drain? This year, try to slow down and make a conscious effort to let some of these last-minute holiday sales roll by you without leaping in. Instead, take some time to think about how you can utilize two of your most undervalued resources: time and experience.

We’re big fans of deliberately dedicating time and the benefit of our experiences to someone who could really use it! Which is why we believe that one of the cheapest, easiest, most selfless and rewarding gifts you can give this holiday season is to become a mentor for someone in your life who could use some encouragement.

Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat: the word “mentor.” We’ve found that the word “mentor” reeeally freaks out young adults, much like the terms “informational interview,” “adjusted gross income,” or “relationship.” Young adults simply don’t believe that they have the life experience or ~wisdom~ to become a mentor.

But while being a mentor can seem like a huge responsibility reserved for People Who Wear Power Suits, the truth is that you never actually cross some magical, I’ve-finally-made-it, I’m-ready-to-mentor line. At its core, mentorship is about having candid conversations and giving heartfelt advice — that’s it, and that’s something that everyone has the capacity to do! Yeah. Even you.

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In our documentary Why Not Us?, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talked to us about his own lifelong mentor. You’d think someone as high-powered as Duncan would tell us his mentor was some world leader no mere mortal would be able to access. In fact, Duncan’s most trusted advisor is actually his high school friend and former basketball teammate, a mentor who’s only a few years older than him and doesn’t work in his industry, yet who has become his go-to consultant whenever he has to make a big decision.

His choice of mentor shows that a role model doesn’t have to be an executive at your company, or the person working in your dream career; a mentor just has to be someone whose opinions you value and trust. As Duncan told our crew of first-generation college student road-trippers, “You’re not future leaders; you’re leaders now. Your family members and your neighborhoods, they’re watching you, and the example you’re setting every single day is huge.”

Duncan’s right: Never forget that the milestones in your life — getting that first job, applying to colleges, passing an AP test — might seem small to you in hindsight, but those same goals are still looming large on the horizon for the people coming up behind you…and they’re goals that you can now help them reach! D’aww man, we’re getting warm fuzzies just thinking about it.

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Why do we believe you’ll feel fulfilled by saying “yes” to mentorship opportunities this holiday season? Because over the past 16 years, SO many of the people we’ve interviewed have told us that becoming a mentor is one of the most rewarding things they’ve ever done.

In our documentary A Balanced Equation, MythBusters host Kari Byron shared that when she was growing up, she often felt underwhelmed by roles she saw women in playing on TV and in films: “I didn’t see strong role models around me, because women just weren’t portrayed in strong careers!”

Now that she’s become the kind of person that young women want to emulate, Byron knows she has a responsibility — and a privilege — to reach out and act as the role model she never saw growing up. She encourages others to do the same.

“A lot of the world tries to pit us against each other, but we all are better if we’re holding hands, helping each other out. I think it’s really important to find people that will help you, and then to pay it forward and help other women. When you’re in your career and holding strong, find the young ones coming up and help pull them up as well. We all feel weak, we all feel scared, we all feel crushing doubt — but to know that we all have the same feeling, but when I’m not feeling strong, you help me, and when you’re not feeling strong, I’ll help you.”

So this year, when you’re home for the holidays, be on the lookout for opportunities to give your advice in a constructive way. When your mom keeps trying to get you to meet the neighbor for coffee, accept that ego boost and say yes! You’ll get to bask in the glow of knowing that someone looks up to you and wants to emulate your career/life path, and the person you’re helping will have a sounding board for their ideas and decisions in the future.

Even better, take the initiative yourself: Think about someone in your circle of friends, neighborhood, or community that could benefit from your wisdom, and then reach out to them. It’s really easy to do this in a non-soapbox-y way; just think about the kinds of things you’d have wanted to hear when you were in their position…and the kinds of advice that you would’ve dismissed as preachy. Once you’ve gathered some of your thoughts, send the message: “Hey, so-and-so told me you’re interested in studying economics — just wanted to let you know that was my major, and I’m around this week if you have any questions/want to get coffee!” Pshh, you got this.

Still feeling like *you’re* the one who could use some guidance?

We recently had a group of students interested in action sports, apparel, and design (a pretty dope mashup!) visit our office for a tour. Serendipitously, our RVs are chock-full of big names in the world of sports branding, like Richard Woolcott, the co-founder of Volcom, Kevin Carroll from Nike, and Michael Jager, a graphic designer who helped shape the brand evolution of Burton Snowboards.

Seeing all of these signatures got the standard reaction from the students: “How did you score these interviews? How the HECK did you get Tinker Hatfield to talk to you?!” (AHEM, we’d like to think that we make fine conversation, thank you…)

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Everyone always expects us to have some crazy answer to this question — someone’s dad pulled some strings, we coincidentally sat next to Phil Knight on a plane, etc. But our answer is crazy-simple, and sometimes a little bit disappointing: we just called people up and asked ’em! We didn’t have a team of producers scheduling interviews, we weren’t paying anyone — we were just a crew of college kids with some time on our hands who decided to see if some of our role models would be up for a chat.

Sure, some of the time, we failed spectacularly. Did we ever secure an interview with P. Diddy? Nahh, but we’re pretty sure we made it onto Sean John’s Do Not Answer list! 💯 💯

But aside from the occasional strikeout, our success rate is pretty good, which is why we feel confident in recommending that you always ask. Even if you think someone’s too senior or too busy to give you some advice, you’ll find that people are almost always more willing to help you out than you’d expect. Plus, just like you, they’ll be in the warm-fuzzy-giving holiday spirit! It’s a perfect time to swoop in and lock down a chat over coffee, if we do say so ourselves.

If picking up the phone and calling someone still sounds a little bit too intimidating, we have a happy medium for you: On Dec. 11, we’re hosting a live Q&A panel with AT&T featuring Women in STEM road-tripper Regina from our documentary A Balanced Equation, and Blanca Barrera, AT&T’s director of construction and engineering.

They’ll be taking your questions about their paths into STEM live online, so come curious and ready to take notes! It’ll be like a Menteeship 101 class: You’ll be able to ask candid questions of a potential mentor without any of the social awkwardness of making a cold call.

Check out the details here, throw it on your calendar, then join us live Monday, December 11 from 4:00–4:45 p.m. PST for some inspiration to get you ready for the new year!

Roadtrip Nation is an organization dedicated to helping individuals find career and life fulfillment by turning the things that they like into careers that they’ll love. To learn more, check us out at roadtripnation.com.

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Roadtrip Nation is dedicated to empowering people everywhere to build livelihoods around their interests. See more at: http://roadtripnation.com

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