When I first founded Film Sprites PR, I did everything on my own. I came from having my Bachelors’ degree and my PR certification to building a business from scratch (and almost accidentally!). But the time came when I could no longer learn through doing…I needed some mentoring- I was looking for my Yoda, my Obi-Wan, my Ancient One, my Tony Stark. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go to some far-flung galactic swamp to be taunted by a wrinkled green Muppet to receive the assistance I needed.
No matter what industry you are in, mentoring is a great idea. Having a mentor means you can receive insights and assistance from someone who is removed enough from your situation that they can give you impartial and practical steps to help you step fully into your greatness.
So, how do you find a mentor? Thankfully in the digital age it’s not difficult to find your own Yoda:
1. Business mentoring schemes: research business mentoring schemes in your community. Some business mentoring schemes are free of charge, some charge a small fee and then subsidize the rest of the fee that would be going to the mentor they select for you, based on your goals.
2. People in your industry (or the field you’re interested in entering): chances are, if you’ve been networking (either in person or via social media), you may have identified people who could be valuable mentors. Perhaps they’re working for a company you desire to work for, or they have qualities you want to embody. Whatever initially led you to pinpointing them as a potential mentor- go with it! Be aware, however, that some people are not keen on mentoring and that’s okay. They may be able to refer you to somebody else who could be of assistance, or resources that can help you.
Start networking with these contacts prior to getting in touch via email/LinkedIn message. One of the things I have found in the 5 years I’ve been working in film is that independent filmmakers in particular are quite amenable to having a chat about their work. It’s not always the case, but try it and see.
3. Virtual mentors: thanks to the digital age we have mentors available everywhere! Chances are, many of us aren’t going to have the chance to kiki with Oprah, David Lynch or Richard Branson, but we have these thought leaders at our fingertips. Seek out books. Listen to podcasts. Glean everything you can from the people in your industry you most admire. When I first started out, I read Kelly Cutrone’s book If You Have To Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You. Recently I’ve been watching Lewis Howes’ The School of Greatness interviews on YouTube while I’m on the elliptical. There are podcasts, books, interviews, audiobooks…the stream of information is astounding and it’s available right now.
Aspiring filmmaker? Set aside some time, pick a filmmaker who inspires you and watch their films. Have a notebook to record anything that strikes you about their aesthetic. Then go and read books, reviews, critical examinations, etcetera. If you really want to go even deeper, seek out academic papers written about their work.
4. Your muses and inspirations are important too! You can learn so much from the people you admire and who spark inspiration in you. If it wasn’t for a massive spark of inspiration, Film Sprites PR may never have existed. What is it about these people you admire? How can you distill lessons from their journeys into lessons for yourself?
If you’re looking to have a mentor in your life, you’re going to want to be a great mentoree. There’s many people who receive dozens of requests for mentoring every day…so how do you stand out and make them say ‘yes’?
1. Be of value: what value can you offer to your potential mentor? Perhaps you’re a whiz at coding, can assist with social media or have a knack with great graphic design. Let your mentor know the skills you could potentially offer them in exchange for their guidance and assistance.
2. Have a genuine interest in what they do: you would be surprised how many people will seek out advice and assistance from someone in a field they are interested in without actually being interested in the person themselves! Don’t just seek someone out because you think they’ll be a good fit and they do what you would like to do. Find someone whose ethos and personality genuinely inspires you.
3. Observe the basic courtesies: I shouldn’t have to write about this, but unfortunately there are times when people don’t observe basic courtesies when it comes to potential mentors. If they decline, send a follow-up message to thank them for their time. If you do have a mentor, show up to meetings promptly. If you’ve arranged a Skype meeting, for instance, and there is something wrong with the connection that could potentially see you signing on late- get in touch with your mentor via e-mail or Linked In message. If you have a set time period for your mentoring, follow up with a thank-you card and/or gift.
If you’re keen to start the mentoring process, here’s an idea for you this weekend: grab a pen and paper and write down definite steps you are going to take to start the path towards mentoring. Map it all out, down to who you will contact, who you’ve contacted and the date of any follow up messages. Writing it down is better than just keeping it in your head, and that way you can cross off each step as you do it.
No matter where you are on your life path and career journey, there’s a wealth of people and resources out there to help take you to the next step. Best of luck!