The Patchwork Mentor - maybe your other half is closer than you think

2018-03-23 by Valerie Fuchs

‘We don’t match’, she said, ‘I need a different mentor’. ‘We just don’t speak the same language’, she explained while shrugging her shoulders. I say I understand — but I am a person who never in her life said the word ‘Mentor’ without air quoting it.

Finding the perfect ‘Mentor’ seems to be the new Tinder for Professionals.

Don’t get me wrong. Not many things are more important than professional orienteering for the lost ones, overwhelmed by that big ass glitter-rainbow of opportunities we have at our fingertips.

I however want to propose 5 types of mentors that might surprise you: The Mirror Mentor.

You probably seek for a mentor because you feel stuck in your professional life. You have had one million thoughts, but now your brain is as stuck like a hamster in a wheel.

Have you ever had the thought that you might not need a different person, but a different toolkit? There are great books & workshops out there, to help you ask yourself the right questions and reflect on your career. Structure your thoughts, create a framework, use a Trello board, whatever floats your boat. I know it, you have it in you!

The Invisible Mentor.

Some people draw their picture of a perfect mentor as a holy incarnation of Steve Jobs cruising into their life on a golden Segway. But not every person who adds a valuable perspective to your career needs to be your Mentor.

And sometimes it is the quiet, non-shouty people you work with, who can trigger a great idea for your next steps with a seemingly loose comment over lunch-break. Keep your eyes and ears open, because the word is out on the streets.

The Mini Mentor.

We people like to think strategic: If I want to get to point xyz in my career, I need advice from a person who is past that point. However not all aspects of career-planning are about getting Google Maps directions. I will quote one of my personal Patchwork-Mentors*:

 ‘I have seen interns with better work ethics than some Directors’. 

Be open minded to keep learning from the less experienced, from students who just start off or even from your new intern. Their career is a blank canvas too and their take on it might be truly inspiring.

The Uncommitted Mentor.

He nervously cleared his throat, sweat pearls on his forehead. He kneeled down and his thin voice was shaking: ‘Do you want to mentor me?’.

Many people I chat to are looking for a Mentor as a permanent partner, someone who will guide them through their entire career. But mentoring costs a lot of time. Your mentor will have to eat and pay rent, which makes it hard to be always available.

Think of it like an investment and diversify your portfolio. How much commitment do you really need? How many big, life changing decisions will you have to discuss? And will you maybe even benefit from different perspectives, the further you move down your path?

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*The Patchwork Mentor.

I myself have a Patchwork Mentor. We have known each other for 31 years, worked together in around 10 different jobs and my mentor never stops to inspire me.

My mentor is made from all the people I have ever worked with. My mentor has shown me ways I want to be, and ways I never want to be like.

My mentor is made from small conversations over hasty lunch breaks, 5 liner emails, or 2 phone calls over the course of 3 years. My mentor is made from my parents’ advice, who have never worked in the same industry, and inspired by my friend who saves lives instead of websites. Thank you everybody, I would not be where I am without you.

There are so many great people out there that it almost seems to be a waste to only pick one of them to help you down your journey. Trigger and embrace their eagerness to help and to support, and I am sure you will have a lot of fun with building your personal Patchwork Mentor.