In a world of clickbait and instant gratification, the deep professional bond of apprentice and mentor seem to have fallen by the wayside. It’s hard to get the attention of the cute guy on the train, let alone someone who is living your dream-career-life, that you hope could spare some time to help you find your way.
Living back in America for the first time in three years has been a significant adjustment for me, forget finding a fulfilling career, a mentor and putting the whole puzzle back together in record time. But, what I have learned in my almost six months back, is that people want to help. They want to connect you to their friend that does x, y & z thing you are interested in, and they want to pass along resources that have been helpful to them in the past. That’s how I found myself writing this blog.
As I am transitioning from teaching ESL abroad for the past three years, there is no set plan with definitive next steps to follow. I’m still in the process of looking for a mentor in international education, but I have been lucky to be in the company of so many helpful friends, family, and connections that have provided me with endless advice and support. I’ve compiled five points related to finding a mentor and some life purpose, that I hope you will find useful:
- Get clarity on your professional goals/career path -Whether you are climbing the corporate ladder, changing careers or have no idea what you want to do - spend some time alone with pen and paper and think about what you enjoy doing. Spend some time imagining your future and visualizing that end goal. If you can’t envision a goal, visualize how you want to feel in the future. A book that was recommended to me by someone in my network was “What Color Is Your Parachute?” - A cult classic for the career changers, unemployed and those trying to get in touch with their life purpose.
- Seek help, where you can - This could mean networking, pulling on professional alumni networks you may already be involved with or making a plan to rejoin after ten years of inactivity. This could mean reaching out to like-minded individuals on LinkedIn with hopes of scheduling an informational interview. LinkedIn can be a treasure trove of connections waiting to be courted. Another option is to seek out a career counselor for their expert opinion about your experience and career trajectory.
- Find someone who is doing what you want to do and connect - This may seem pretty obvious, but it is probably one of the best ways to identify mentor-worthy individuals in your social sphere. This could happen at work, a networking event, a tailgate, just about anywhere. Keep your eyes and ears open and let others know you are seeking a mentor in x field. There are even mentor organizations that can pair you with individuals.
- Volunteer to be a mentor - Sometimes when we feel like we need help, what we need is to help others. There are so many wonderful organizations in Chicago that could use volunteer mentors for at-risk teens or keeping community college students accountable. Maybe what you’ve been searching for has been in a place you forgot to look. Getting involved with organizations like One Million Degrees or the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago could help you develop skills outside of your scope, make meaningful connections and give your life a sense of purpose.
- Remember that every path is different - As much as we may want to follow the path of a mentor to achieve their same results, that may not be possible for a variety of reasons. It can be helpful to consult with others in our field or gather data on how people generally reach the top, but it’s an individual process. The more I use LinkedIn seeking out international education related advice, the more I realize every path is unique. Every person has their own Rubik's cube, so respect your journey instead of comparing it to others. Make room for constructive criticism and helpful advice, but don’t forget you are the master of your sails.
Lindsay Pomazal is a driven professional with over 10 years of diverse domestic and international workplace experience, proven success at relationship building combined with excellent research, critical analysis, and original content creation capabilities across multiple platforms.