How to be your own mentor And Level-up your Career

Industry- and Role-Agnostic Advice to Help you Grow

Originally published on February 2023, updated for relevancy in March 2023

I’m usually the mentor, not the mentee. 

Here are some strategies that have worked for me, on how to mentor yourself to grow your career. 

I’ll assume that the reason you’re here is that either:

Please note: There are many fee-based services, platforms, and communities out there. I'll only be sharing free and non-affiliated resources to help you on your journey.

TL;DR: To be your own mentor, you’ll need to do (some) research, (some) networking, and as-needed, fill-in gaps with one-off mentoring sessions.

Start with End Goal(s)

What are your goals/aspirations? Are you looking to grow in your career, establish a “personal moat”? Or do something else entirely? There’s no wrong answer here!

Think about what that would look like – and what those achievements would look like in the immediate-, the short- to medium- term, and the next 10-15 years. Ask yourself:

Be as specific as possible here. Can you make it a SMART goal?

For example, in the next 5 years I’d love to do 2 things, which will help me get closer to a private board role at a HealthTech company:

Work Backwards from End Goal(s) to Create Roadmap

Now that we know what end goal(s) we’re working towards, what do you think is the smallest step – that’s the closest to the end goal – that will get you to the finish line? Then the next closest to the end goal? … And repeat as needed, until you have an idea for what your next smallest step to try is, relative to where you are in your career journey now. 

For example, for my EIR goal, I’m looking to doing:

Developing the Roadmap without a Long-term Mentor

Step 1: Research

If it’s not clear what that step is, because this may be the reason you’re looking for a mentor in the first place, I encourage you to try the following:

Step 2: Evaluate

From everything that you’ve read and attended, what stands out about the role? Are there any common themes/denominators? 

Now that you know what companies tend to look for, evaluate how many of those skills/achievements you have now, and identify the top 3-5 gaps. These will be the stepping-stones on your roadmap to get you closer to achieving your goal.

Step 3: Iterate

Now that you know what gaps you’re trying to fill, or aspirations you’re trying to achieve, try the following:

TIP: If you need a community to help you be accountable, ask your network for recommendations. If there isn't one that fits your needs, start your own! 

After you’ve been able to patch one of the gaps, what’s the next most marketable skill (from your research) you should tackle next, similarly? 

Parting Advice

This will hopefully get you at least 50% there. To get you closer to your goal, now may be a great time to share your journey with your network, where you’re stuck, and what you need more support in; be as specific as possible. To make this a very quick (<5 minutes to reply), low-key ask, I would frame this as one of two-ways:

Please note: unless you have a close relationship with the person, this may not be the time to ask someone you’ve met once, very briefly, for a (virtual) 20-minute (or more) coffee to learn about their journey. 

Having said that, if you’ve followed the mentor’s advice – even if things didn’t turn out as expected, please feel free to give them an update, which will help you to continue building that relationship.

If you do end up asking for that quick virtual coffee, please, please, please send your questions ahead of time. This will help you stand out from all the other requests that they get, show that their time matters – and that no one else but them, is the right fit for this coffee. 

This shows that you value their time, you’re done your research, you couldn’t find these answers online, and the person is uniquely positioned to provide this advice! That's harder to turn down :)

As you go along your journey, remember what Miley Cyrus sings:

[There’s] "Always gonna be an uphill battle / Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose / Ain't about how fast I get there / Ain't about what's waiting on the other side / It's the climb".

Good luck!

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