A few weeks ago I threw my two-cents out there about mentors. How to have one. What to look for. How to not ask someone to be your mentor and make it feel like you are asking them to the prom. And get rejected. AWWWKWARD!
Having a mentor is important yet can be rather difficult to find; in a creative industry dominated by women. If you want someone to be your mentor, chances are they are extremely busy. They are successful. They are a master at their craft. You don’t want someone to be your mentor who sits on their couch all day and isn’t moving and shaking in their field. It can be a mom-to-mom-mentorship, a business mentorship, a blogging mentorship. It’s dang HARD to find success in whatever you are doing without a mentor. Mentorships are crucial.
If you are searching for the perfect mentor – start with who you know. – More on that here.
Recently during a message at our Church they mentioned mentoring and I grabbed a nugget of advice from the panel of High School Students doing a quick Q&A with our lead Pastor and his wife. “If you have a mentor you would like to work with here is my best advice: GIVE BACK TO THEM.”
If you mentor is local, drop by a meal or help them set up their Antique Show Event without asking for anything in return. Ask if you can guest post for them. If they paint a lot of projects, help them paint. And here is the part that has been so hard for me to wrap my mind around. Do this for free. No compensation. Nada.
My friend Cara, from The Little Golden Fox, drove all the way from Madison, IN to Pike Road, Alabama to help Miss Mustard Seed at The Chapel Market Antique Fair recently. She drove 519 miles to help her sweep floors, check her customers out, and just be available to help during a chaotic day of sales.
And I secretly wondered if I was the only selfish person who thought: WHY. IN. THE. HELL. would Cara do this for free? Why would Marian not compensate her?
Now it makes sense. Because she was able to learn so much in the process. I haven’t spoke to Cara about this but I can only imagine what you could learn from working with Miss Mustard Seed at an Antique Fair.
The displays. The Pricing. The merchandise – what’s hot and what’s not. The interactions with customers.
I then remembered I did the same thing at Haven this past summer. I went the the Advanced Furniture Painting Class early to help Marian and Shaunna set up. I wish I could say it was 100% out of the kindness of my heart. But I really wanted to learn from them. I wanted to glean some inspiration from their techniques. Their set-up. Their attitudes about teaching. And then maybe 25% of it was kindness. Hey, at least it wasn’t 0% kindness, right?
I have had many offers from customers wanting to just stay and help me with a project. I have even had some offers to for unpaid interns. I should have jumped at the chance to do so! But I didn’t. I declined those offers and I am sad I did. At the time it didn’t feel right not to pay someone for their time and talent. But what I didn’t realize is that those women were looking for a mentor. Not someone who was looking to give away their talents for free. They genuinely wanted to learn from me.
So the moral to the story is: If someone wants to work for you for free – say yes. Not out of greed – but out of the pure joy in helping mentor someone along their own journey. And if someone won’t let you work for free (like a ding dong like me!) Remind them that it’s not free because you are gaining knowledge that took them years to define. And if they still decline. Well, they are not secure enough in their talents to share them with others.
And if you are looking for a mentor – give your time – you will both learn something in the process. For those of you I have turned down in the past. Come on over. I would welcome you with open arms!
How do you feel about giving your time to receive a mentorship? It is breaking labor laws or feeding a labor of love?