One in five women has never had a mentor in her career, according to new data released by the LinkedIn Blog. Eighty-two percent said that nearly 1,000 women surveyed said they realize that having a mentor could be important for her career. And yet a good one-fifth of the women surveyed were going at it alone, possibly because, as more than half of those un-mentored women reported, they never found someone who was appropriate.
I had a mentor once right out of college. He was an editor at a magazine where I had interned and, like me, had started out in journalism working his way up from the bottom. He gave me tons of advice, cheerleading and moral support (which, for me, was what I really needed) and took me seriously as a writer, even though I was 21 years old. Then we both did stupid things, however, and got involved in a sexual relationship with each other. For a lot of reasons, that turned out to really suck and now we haven’t spoken in years. I lost a good friend when that relationship ended, as well as the only mentor I’d ever had.
In the years since then, I’ve flirted with finding mentors to little or no avail. Like some of the women reported in the LinkedIn survey, I’ve had a hard time finding the right person. Either she/he is too busy or lives far away or is ill or just had a baby … or I’m the one who is too busy.
It occurred to me over the summer, when I was randomly thinking about this subject, that Amelia is probably the closest thing I have to a mentor. She’s my boss and my friend, but by virtue of how crazy-intertwined bloggers get in each other’s lives, she is also the de facto person who I ask 90 percent of my professional/work-life balance-related questions about. (The other 10 percent go to my friend Megan, who is also sort of a de facto mentor.) I regularly go to her with questions like “Do you think I should do this?”, ”What do you think of that plan?”, or “Am I crazy for wanting to XYZ?” — not because I think she has all the right answers [Lord knows I do not. -- Editor] but because she has greater perspective on things than I do. Amelia is five years older than me, so she nearly always has trod the path I am treading now. She’s also much, much, much more mellow than I am and seemingly less worried about what do other people think of me?. Through her example, I’ve learned to be myself in all my nerd-tastic glory and not follow the crowd of “cool kids.” (And most importantly, she’s never tried to get in my pants!) [This is all very flattering and kind and I can assure you I did not pay Jessica in panda babies to write this. -- Editor]
Even though having Amelia is a “big sister” is great, I do wish that I had had a mentor from ages 21 to 25 (which is when I started working at The Frisky). Those were the early years of my career when I could have used cheerleading and moral support the most, especially since at the time my self-esteem and ego were much more tied to work than they are today. I am calm and happy today, but I have had jobs were I regularly had panic attacks before, during and after work. I regret that I didn’t have a mentor during that time, because there were certainly moments where I suffered unnecessarily.
Do readers have a professional mentor? Who is he or she? Was it a formal mentor relationship set up by school or just something you arranged yourself? What’s the best thing your mentor has taught you?
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.