Repaying your mentors

I’ve had several mentors over my career. Most of them informal mentors that were able to see something in me and help guide me in a more productive direction. Sometimes they were managers, or often friends that provided a different point of view. In most cases I still don’t know what they noticed in me, or why they helped, but damn I am glad they did.

These relationships have been critical to my career. These are the people I will forever be in debt. These people didn’t provide their guidance out of a work obligations, in fact my experiences with formal mentorships have always been a flop. They just don’t work.

Do you have these people in your life? When was the last time you caught up with a previous mentor?

Do how you do you pay these people back?

There are two ways:

  • Deliver.
  • Pay it back.

Deliver - this should be the easy one. Make them proud that they spent their time with you. Be as good as they think you are. Don’t waste their time.

Be a mentor - You know all the good karma, pay it forward stuff. No really, take time and be open to working with people. Find the right fit. Is there someone in your company that could use some of your perspective? In most cases you won’t need to seek out these opportunities, they will find you, just be open.

Here is the sneaky and possibly selfish part of being a mentor. You get to think through how you would solve a problem. How have you done it before? Can you really explain your position on a given subject? Mentoring someone allows you to work through your positions, what do you stand for?

If you are open to it, I think you will find that informally mentoring a few people a year, will make a big difference in how you think about what you know. And you will be paying back all those people who helped you out along the way.