All the cool kids have a mentor. Why don’t I?

Mentoring has been a buzzword in my life for at least the last six years. I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with a mentoring organization, and my current employer is spearheading a statewide mentoring initiative. Of course, these experiences mostly focus on adults mentoring young people, rather than professional mentoring as is the focus of Thing 11. Even so, I feel as though I have developed an appreciation for the potential value of mentoring, and I’ve certainly seen positive results.

So why haven’t I ever had a formal mentor myself?

I can think of a couple reasons:

  1. My independent streak. For better or worse, I often find it difficult to ask for help. I like to think I can learn what I need to do a good job without inconveniencing other people. I’m not afraid to ask questions when I don’t know an answer, but specifically seeking personal/professional guidance can be tough for me. It’s awkward to be so open about strengths, weaknesses, concerns, ambitions, etc. Remember how I said I was better with information problems than emotion problems?
  2. My nichelessness. As I mentioned in my first post, I’m still not sure what type of librarian I’m going to be. A part of me thinks it might be nice to have someone I could bounce ideas around with, but the rest of me still feels like I need to figure it out for myself. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, really. Which comes first: career direction or a mentor?

I didn’t say they were good reasons.

While I’m not quite ready to formally ask anyone to be my mentor, I do plan to continue building my network of informal mentors. I’ve made valuable connections through active participation in cpd23 and increased engagement on Twitter. I’m improving my in-person networking skills, partially because of these online experiences.

Blogging may soften my independent streak, as I learn to practice self-awareness in a public forum. And I hope all of the reading, networking, and reflection will help me find my niche. If I find a formal mentor along the way, great! If not, I know my fellow librarians excel at advice-giving and knowledge-sharing, so I’ll settle for their collective wisdom.


2 Comments on “All the cool kids have a mentor. Why don’t I?”

  1. I’ve always struggled with mentor-ship because of an independent streak, too. I also don’t have great answers when people ask me things like “what teachers inspired you?” I feel like most of the important things I’ve learned I learned on my own. And it’s not that I had bad teachers, it’s just that I learn best when I’m learning in a self-directed manner.

    Networking, on the other hand, suits my independent streak and let’s me help other people in informal ways while building a community for me to turn to when I need a little something. Probably that information vs emotion thing again — I would rather ask my tribe for information than ask my mentor for help.

  2. Erin says:

    I’m working on the post for this thing right now. I had to laugh at yours — I have a mentor, but am continually shocked that I do because of that same independent streak. I think the only reason a have a mentor is that there was no asking and no formal arrangement… just kind of worked out that way, and it has been invaluable. I hope one magically comes along like it did for me.

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