Good mentors are hard to find. I have been blessed to have several people mentor me, both professionally and personally. But I know that the few mentors willing to donate their time are overworked and overwhelmed. The demand for mentors far exceeds the supply.
So what should you do? I’m not suggesting that you stop looking for a qualified mentor, but here are 5 alternatives that can also enhance your personal and professional growth:
5 Alternatives to Finding a Mentor
1. Webinars and blogs. The internet is full of opportunities to hear the advice of successful leaders. Perhaps some of the people that you most admire have a blog, podcast, or webinar that you can listen to – for free. Take advantage of it. Set a goal to listen to one webinar or podcast each quarter and choose a blog to follow regularly.
2. Books. You have easy access to a wealth of information provided by relevant, well-written books. For less than $20, you can get someone’s best recommendations on a specific topic. If you don’t want to spend the money, use the library. Set a goal to read at least 2 books each year.
3. Workshops, seminars, or courses. This is a level up from simply reading someone’s book. Many best-selling authors offer short courses for more in-depth training. The focused and intensive content of these courses is more likely to result in significant changes to your life.
4. Conferences. I just returned from SIOP, which is a conference that brings together both academic and consulting I/O Psychologists to discuss best practices and emerging trends. An incredible learning experience for me! Conferences provide an opportunity for live instruction from a wide variety of speakers. You get total immersion, focused education, and a chance to network with other participants. Sometimes it also provides direct access to the instructor(s). Set a goal to attend at least one conference per year.
5. Coaching. Leadership coaching provides one-on-one private instruction for professionals. While you may think you can’t afford a private coach, I would encourage you to investigate it before dismissing it. If your coach can help you step out of your comfort zone and seize one new opportunity, optimize your productivity, or avoid a fatal mistake, it will pay for itself many times over. Most companies are also willing to sponsor leadership coaching for their high-potential candidates. Because coaching is still an unlicensed profession, I recommend reviewing credentials, training, background, and recommendations before choosing who to work with.
Don’t wait around for a qualified mentor to become available. Expanding your definition of mentoring may give your career the boost that it needs. All of these opportunities are within your reach. Focus on how you can use them to learn and grow professionally right now.