Nine years ago, I was desperate for help. I had just moved to a new city, I had very little friends, and I was searching for someone to look at me and tell me you have good ideas.
No one did that. What I was looking for was a mentor. I couldn’t find one at my shitty job, I couldn’t find one in my group of friends, I didn’t have any options for anything of the sort. So I turned to Craigslist, with a post titled “WANTED: PROFESSIONAL MENTOR FOR TWENTYSOMETHING” where I went on and on about how I needed help, how I needed guidance, how I needed literally anyone to weigh in on my life. “I am in dire need of a professional mentor,” I wrote. “I have a lot of talent and am stuck in a position where I will either flounder away into nothing.” I listed my credentials against my aimlessness, eventually even noting that, of course, the New York Times had just written “an article about the importance of a professional mentor” and that “it was a sign.”
A decade later, I still have no mentor. A professor in an MFA program to guide my writing, yes, but no professional mentor. Granted, I did make one connection from that Craigslist post: a guy named Matt who I met up with at the now non-existent West Hollywood Starbucks. He tried to get me involved in a Ponzi scheme. I politely declined.
As I still look for someone to guide me – Or at least share their experience! – the New York Times is at it again with a story about why mentoring matters for young professionals and old professionals alike.
Mentorship advances careers. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people with mentors are more likely to get promotions. That’s no accident. Jenni Luke, chief executive of the national teen mentorship organization StepUp, knows that those relationships can help propel young women to success.
“When I go into a room full of people and I say, ‘Raise your hand if you’ve gotten your job through somebody,’ every hand goes up,” Ms. Luke said. “Every single person on earth has social capital, and you want to use it with intentionality.”
Sigh. Is everyone getting mentored? Why is this so hard for me?
And the Times suggestion for solving the problem? “Check in with your human resources department and look to professional organizations.” Sure, sure, kk. I work alone, freelancing, and have tried such organizations and college networks, only to ever get a cockeyed stare from individuals and networks, online and off. It’s not a strange question: Where can I get a mentor? It seems to be too much to ask.
Yes, this post is a call for a little help since I have literally been thinking about this for a decade, mostly to no avail. This is the sort of thing most minorities can relate to as there is always the challenging of finding a role model or someone like you who “did it.” I find it challenging given my being a silly queer writer who is in between having a writing career and not, being published online and off, at a time when the industry is being built and dissolved, at a time in my life when I need so much and so little: a mentor would be great as I, truly, just need to know someone has my back.
So, give me a mentor. Tell me who to talk to. I am only slightly afraid to ask – and am unsure this quest will ever come to a finish. If I could be my own mentor, I would. Perhaps I am but, damn, it’s exhausting always being your own sounding board, your own career counselor, your own guidance.