Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Good Mentor Can Make All the Difference in the World

A Good Mentor Can Make All the Difference in the World

I have a certain number of natural (i.e., God-given) abilities ... things that I'm actually really good at. Relationships. Listening. Writing. Editing. Teaching. Creative pursuits. Design. Marketing. Synthesizing information. And I'm blessed to have found a way to incorporate all of them into my work. But as many talents as I may have, nothing would have happened in my business if I had not also been blessed to meet some incredible people who took an interest in me and helped me expand and implement my natural gifts.
  • Coaches who believed in me and encouraged me to push further
  • Mentors who taught me how to see opportunities where others would see only blocks, and who encouraged me to elimnate the negative self-talk
  • A personal trainer who's the best businessman I've ever met, and who insisted that I learn SEO so my Web site would get ranked
  • Friends who gave me work and referrals and their unwavering support
Success doesn't happen in a box. And it doesn't happen on our own. If you think about your road to success, I'm willing to bet there have been a lot of people along the way who helped you get there. And if you don't feel you're really all that successful yet, I encourage you to go out and surround yourself with the people who are doing the thing at which you want to succeed. If you want to be a filmmaker, get involved with people in the film industry. If you want to hit the top of the charts with your new dance single, go mingle with the folks from the record labels, radio stations, and distribution companies. If you want to be a highly paid speaker, the National Speakers Association is waiting to welcome you as a candidate. Just about every industry has a trade group or association you can join.

Most of all, remember to seek out the experts in your field. One of my mentors moved to Phoenix from the Midwest. Before he came, he got online and researched the major networking, association, and business development groups for his industry. He looked specifically at the boards and senior-level membership ... and took note of which individuals showed up across several different groups. Assuming those were the influencers – why would they be on the boards otherwise? – he made a beeline to meet those people as soon as he arrived. Do you think they helped him out when he got here? Sure they did. People are generally willing to help – be it with introductions or answering questions – but they won't be able to if you don't ASK them, because they're not mind-readers.

I remember for a business class I took in college, we had to find a professional in the industry we thought we might pursue and interview them. I suppose the idea was to give you a (tiny bit) of real-world exposure to your field of interest. Interestingly, I was thinking publishing at the time, and now as an editor, I actually work in the publishing industry, focusing particularly on work with self-published authors. I chose to interview the director of the University of Arizona Press.

I couldn't tell you his name now, but what I do know is that I was incredibly unaware that ours was one of the most distinguished university publishers in the country ... so it was really a great honor to be granted a half-hour of this man's time. I also remember him complaining that the big bookstore chains were going to run the small stores out of business (a prediction that has largely come to pass). However, I don't think, at the time of our interview, he foresaw the effect of digital presses and self-publishing on the industry. As a 19-year-old undergrad, I was just grateful for his time ... and a bit disheartened about his jaded outlook for the future of the industry I was seriously considering.

Imagine my surprise – and utter delight – the first time I was contacted via my Web site by a college student who wanted to interview me for a similar business class! Now it actually happens with some frequency. The query is always the same: "What's it like to be a freelance editor?" And I now have the opportunity to answer questions – and encourage these enthusiastic, idealistic young adults – about the possiblities and opportunities in this ever-changing, always-interesting industry. It feels like I've come full circle.

But beyond asking for favors, it's also well worth the investment to pay someone to coach or mentor you in your area of interest. Mentorship with a talented, successful individual is an investment that will repay you in countless ways.

The people who have influenced me are nearly endless ... but the ones who've had an extremely profound effect on my life and business success are a handful, and I'm ever so grateful for each and every one of them. Find those people in your life. Embrace them. Learn from them. Model them. And when all is said and done ... THANK them!

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write |
Market | Design, where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

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