It’s not always easy to spot a mentorship moment. Sometimes your mentor doesn’t look like Mr. Miyagi. Sometimes there’s no cookie-cutter advice like, “Work hard and be respectful.” That doesn’t make your mentor or the advice he/she gives any less influential or important to your life.
Here’s the story of my mentor moment and how it didn’t look anything like I thought it would.
In my mind there are two different kinds of people. There are those who are risk takers and those who are much happier to stay in a “safe zone.” I belong to the latter group. I find my comfort zone and then I stay there (whether it’s good for me or not).
When I graduated from college I returned home and got a job working at the same preschool I had worked at my entire life. It wasn’t a bad situation. I had grown up volunteering there so I knew how everything worked, I was getting a steady paycheck, and I got to hang out and play like a little kid all day.
Truthfully, it wasn’t a bad deal, but I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knew that I didn’t want to get stuck doing the same thing I had always done. I knew that I wanted to move away from home and that I wanted to get a career in writing.
The problem was that I was feeling pretty secure. I wasn’t failing. I didn’t have to worry about being rejected. I was coasting.
The thing about coasting is that it’s just that. I may not have been struggling but I also was not advancing. I was just… staying the same.
Then, just when I needed it, my mentor moment happened (though I didn’t recognize it for what it was at first).
The advice that changed my path did not come from someone with a Fu Manchu beard. It did not ignite a fire in my belly and inspire me.
Actually, it scared me to death and it came from my coworker, Courtney, who is only a couple years older than I am.
What was the advice she gave me? To quit my job.
How did she go about telling me this?
Well, actually she told me about her own story. As a recent graduate from the University of Hawaii, she made the decision that she was not moving back to her childhood home in Southern California. Oahu was her new home. She gave herself no option other than finding a job on the island.
When looking to start her career, she discovered the preschool and loved the philosophy behind it. Even though the school was not hiring at the time, she came in anyway to introduce herself, get to know the school a little better, and make it known that she was interested in working there.
My boss ended up liking her so much that she hired her even though there were no defined open positions.
Courtney encouraged me to do the same. Quit. Move. I shouldn’t wait for things to happen to me. I had to go and make things happen.
I’m someone who gets nervous ordering a pizza over the phone so cutting myself off from the security of a home and a job was almost too terrifying a thought for me to handle.
I discussed it with my mom and I remember telling her, “things like that don’t happen for me. I’m not lucky like Courtney is.”
You know what my mom said to me? She said, “Courtney isn’t lucky. Good things happen for her because she makes them happen. She doesn’t think about what could go wrong. She just goes for it, puts herself out there, and expects the best.”
She also pointed out that I was only 23. What’s the worst that would happen? If I tried and failed, I could always come back. It wouldn’t always be that way. The older I got, the harder it would be to bounce back.
She was right. Waiting around for my life to happen would not make it happen. I decided then and there that I was moving to San Francisco at the end of summer no matter what. I applied online for the Editorial Internship and started looking for a place to live. I planned on couchsurfing until I found a place and applying to every editorial job I could find if I didn’t get the AfterCollege position.
After I made this decision and gave myself no other option besides uprooting, moving, and finding a new job I was lucky enough to get the internship. As for a place to live I was lucky enough to have a pal I hadn’t seen in about seven years message me on Facebook saying that a room in their house had just opened up to be sublet for a few months.
I’ve never been a lucky person. I’ve also never been one to put myself out there. Once I took the risk and made a definitive decision, my luck seemed to change.
So am I telling you to drop everything and start a new life somewhere else? Not necessarily. I’m telling you to keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t think that a mentor has to look like Obi Wan Kenobi in order to give you useful advice. Listen to what people are saying, meditate on whether it’s applicable to you, and then make moves to improve your life.
Homework time! Take a moment to think about the advice that the people around you have been giving. Be careful. Not all advice is good advice and not all advice is applicable to you. BUT there is still advice out there that is useful and it might not come from the person you expect. So be sure to pay attention and seek out advice that will help you.