Self-mentorship: switching away from autopilot

Tue, 21/11/2017 - 09:58

We’ve all had mentors in our lives. And it’s safe to say they add immeasurable value to our journeys and careers. Whether professional or personal, it’s necessary to have someone to look up to and learn important lessons from. 

But, as your career takes off and you start to become more confident in your work, it might feel unnecessary to still be mentored. You’ve gained experience and your standard of work is high, so why would you need someone to show you the way?

While that might be a reasonable argument, it’s crucial to realise that you’re never done learning and growing. As with most aspects of life, striking a balance is key. Sometimes valuable input can make a major difference, while other times it’s good for you to take the steering wheel. 

Mentor influence

So, when does mentor advice take preference? Firstly, whenever you’re out of your comfort zone, a mentor can provide insightful ideas and observations for you to consider. Whether it’s an area of expertise you’ve not yet mastered or an especially big project, there are always times when you feel slightly out of your depth. 

Secondly, it’s always a good idea to touch base with your mentor now and again to check your work and even just bounce a few ideas around. In this sense, your mentor is not just an authoritative well of knowledge, but also a working companion. 

Personal experience

The question is, how should personal experience dictate your decisions? As you build up work experience and take on bigger projects, you learn quite a bit about handling stress, managing your time and executing ideas – by deadline and according to the brief. So, your intuition might be fine-tuned enough to point you in the right direction without consulting anyone else. 

You’re right, you do have enough experience to make your own decisions. And you should. After all, your mentors were once mentored by someone until they became confident and proficient enough to take the ropes on their own. So, you definitely need to exercise your autopilot skills – the ability to take control of your own ship – in order to reach optimal success. 

This certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll never need your mentor again. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. It’s always a good idea to run ideas by your mentor as they’ll likely help to elevate your work by that extra 1%.  

Your unique journey

So, if you have to consult your mentor but also follow your own instincts, how is that supposed to work? The answer is simple – follow your unique journey. We often want to emulate our mentors and role models to the extent of reliving their journeys. And we forget that our unique skills and experiences make it impossible to follow the exact same path as another, no matter how much we admire them. 

While you should use your mentor’s journey as inspiration and motivation, you have to remember the value of your own perspective. What makes the world tick is the uniqueness that every person brings to the table. Start carving out your path in life. Stop looking at other people and how they do it and rather focus on implementing what you’ve learned, the way you believe it should be done. It’s likely that you’ll end up implementing your mentor’s input in a different way. A way that only you could think of.

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