I Don’t Want One Mentor

Recently a few professional colleagues I respect have told me I should get a mentor. They don’t think I need someone to set me on the right path or anything, but think I would benefit from having someone to ask for advice sometimes. They think I should have someone I strive to be like, just like they do.

To help ‘guide my search’ one of them asked, “Well who’s the one person you look at and think ‘I want that life?’” I didn’t have an answer for them. I couldn’t think of one. I still can’t think of one person who embodies everything I want to be 10, 20, 30 years from now.

I reflected on this idea of a mentor and decided I don't want one.

“A mentor can be a role model, coach, sounding board, voice of reason, emotional support, counsellor, and a trusted resource.” What does a mentor do?

The whole mentor-mentee relationship is obviously common. Many can say they’ve had someone to look up throughout their lives and careers, so it’s not foreign to me why those colleagues think I’d like one. What makes me uncomfortable is the idea of having just one.

There are thousands of parts of me and probably thousands of people that influence those parts. What’s wrong with that?

Like many, I have long term career goals. A common method for people is to find someone doing exactly what they want to be doing and then trying to recreate their path as best works for them. I haven’t met that person yet. I’m sure they’re out there — the person with a job perfectly suited for me — but I’m not going to actively seek them out and ask them to be my mentor when I think I’m doing just fine now.

I have mentors.

Don’t get me wrong, I have many people I’d deem as “role models,” “sounding boards” or “trusted resources,” but that’s just it. I have many. The people I go to for opinions on whether or not I should get a Masters degree are different from the people I brainstorm new project ideas with. The people I send a piece of my critical writing to for review are different from the people I send my video news stories to. And those two sets of people are completely different from the people I go to for emotional and personal advice. Needless to say, I have a lot of “mentors” and not one, two or even three people fit into all those categories.

Everybody is a mentor

When I meet people I admire or envy, I try to figure out what it is I respect about them. Sometimes it’s the way they speak to crowds, how they carry themselves around colleagues or simply their vocabulary. Sometimes I love what they’ve done in an aspect of their career and hope I’ll reach the same level of success with my own work. Sometimes I just like the way they dress or how they are as a girlfriend, sister, friend, etc.

Once I figure out what I admire about someone, I try to incorporate it into my life somehow. Sometimes I do reach out to them for advice on a subject they’d be knowledgeable about, but sometimes I may just copy something small they do without them ever knowing. I guess I’m a mosaic of people I’ve met — all coming together to create the person that is me.

In essence, I don’t want a mentor. I want many. I’m not trying to “find the life I want to live” in someone else, I’m trying to make the life I want to live. I’ll continue to try to mirror the qualities I like from all the people meet and not waste time finding one person who embodies them all. So no, I don’t want A mentor — I have numerous and I’m happy with that.

Bailey Parnell
Bailey Parnell is the Founder & CEO of SkillsCamp and was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2016. Bailey is a 2x TED speaker with over 3.5 million views, an award-winning internationally-recognized entrepreneur, active humanitarian, and one with a talent for helping people develop the skills they need for success. Her work and expertise have been featured in Forbes, Good Morning America, CBC, FOX, and more.

For speaking, media, or a quick chat, reach out to Bailey today.

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