If there’s a single social principle that we’ve established at this point in human history, it’s this: community is incredibly important. In our current anxiety and depression riddled age, people often feel incredibly isolated despite the fact that we are more connected than ever. While this is seemingly contradictory, if you consider how much toggling between social media and screen time takes away from organic face-time (not to mention wreaking havoc on our ability to focus), it is not so surprising. For many successful professionals at the top of their field, there is often a sense of emptiness: if you achieve everything you set out to achieve, but you’re still missing something, what do you do? For many, the answer is mentorship.
Because we spend so much time focused on our individual concerns, we often end up lost in a thought labyrinth of our own making. When we concern ourselves with other people – especially people in need who can benefit from guidance and patience – it gets us out of the labyrinth and helps establish a wider, more compassionate view of the world. Simply put: helping people can help you, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
The idea behind mentorship is that you assist someone who is pursuing goals similar to those that you have achieved. Not only is this a transactional relationship, but when human warmth and a few laughs are in the mix, it can become a genuine friendship. If you see a therapist or get lunch with a friend, you may still fixate on your own limited problems and issues. When you see a mentee regularly, the focus shifts to them and you can talk about a career that you – hopefully – find meaning in.
This may all sound rosy, of course, but how does one go about finding a mentee? You can’t simply approach strangers on the street. In a broad sense, websites like meetup connect people in an informal way from any type of career at all: electrician, jazz pianist, hotel manager. If you have a fairly specialized career, this may be the best path.
For some careers and vocations, however, there are non-profit organizations dedicated to connecting highly-motivated young people with reliable mentors who can share their wealth of knowledge and help prepare them for the path ahead. Careers In Entertainment, for example, which is a branch of the Will Smith and Jada Pinkett foundation, hold networking events and encourage young people from under-resourced communities to look into career opportunities in film and television; you can learn more at Cietour.org and sign up to become a mentor.
For writers or artists of any stripe, there are a number of organizations across America based on the model of Dave Egger’s 826 National in San Francisco. 826 started out as a tutoring center where isolated writers could form a community around helping kids with homework and writing assignments. It has spawned a large network of writing centers across North America, Europe and Australia focused on improving literacy skills in under-resourced communities.
Whatever your career is, reach out to someone and see if you can help. You’ll be doing two people a favor.
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