The digital age has killed mentorship, as we once knew it – thankfully gone are the sporadic and sparse interactions between the all-powerful mentor and kowtowing mentee. It’s irrelevant and impractical in our frenetically paced, social media dominated world, which has rendered mentorship extinct. The old model pivots on age or “experience” in a top-down transfer of knowledge, which doesn’t always apply to younger generations dealing with different social issues than the previous one.
Digital innovation allows relationship building in micro-seconds, defying time and space and even the craziest timetables. What matters now is how people from all walks of life and experience master the knowledge sharing model, whether it propels themselves or another one forward. It’s all connected, and successes are truly shared, as communities count and can reflect influence and benefit on all who belong to them.
In fact, mentorship has sort of done a headstand when it comes to doing business with digital natives (who are alarmingly pushing their 30s!) It’s Baby Boomers through to Gen Y who need to keep pace with Gen I and C-ers, who might as well be issued Twitter handles on their birth certificates!
As someone who has benefited from both ends of the mentorship dynamic, I am fascinated by the emergence of what I call ’Mutual Sponsorship’. This model embraces the transference of knowledge between the two parties and viewing it as a fluid cycle rather then a periodic dumping of information. The paradigm shift created by micro attention span solutions has redressed the power balance; the mentee is no longer shackled to one brilliant mind but can embrace ‘intellectual promiscuity’ by attaching to innumerable sponsors, amplifying and maximizing their potential by drawing from as many sources as they can connect with.
Our very own Brand Amplifier champions the Mutual Sponsorship mindset – female entrepreneurs are coached by several successful experts, but the real value is the knowledge sharing that the collective group ultimately ends up producing organically. Not to mention the off-line networking and experience trading!
So, what does this mean for you? With your personal icons just a tweet or a poke away, here are a couple of tips on getting sponsored yourself…
1. Know your worth
No relationship is a one-way street and this applies to the sponsor dynamic. Remember the value of your experience, although a certain successful someone may truly put you in awe, remember that they don’t know what they don’t know either… and maybe you do!
2. Fortune favours the brave
Your mother was right. (Again!) If you don’t believe in yourself then no one else will. The arms-length appeal of the internet unfortunately does not apply when it comes to the fear of rejection and humiliation when approaching your hero. Be bold, within reason, but remember that confidence sells. Backup plan – take a deep breath and fake it ‘til you make it. (Spoiler alert = you likely will if you want it THAT much!)
3. Flattery can get your foot in an unlikely door
Just ask! Many professionals are not mentors because they haven’t been approached. Be discreet on LinkedIn or ask under the all-seeing eye of Twitter – you might turn a rebuff into a discussion in a public forum where image counts. Forums are great for building gradual rapport be it through comments, tagging outright direct advice queries. When in doubt, comment, retweet, and keep it smart and relevant!
4. Dip your toe in unchartered waters
As I recently discussed on a DigiTalk Panel on ‘iMentoring’, our digital world offers a wealth of social media channels that can lead to a connection with your potential mentor. Be it via Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Snapchat or a clever comment on a blog. Don’t limit yourself to just one. And if one doesn’t work, try a different one!
5. Play the field
Your dream mentor doesn’t just exist in the arena you intend to forge your career or business. Insightful people exist in all walks of life and you may be surprised where you find your inspiration. A ‘Pick-and-Mix’ approach will strengthen and diversify your knowledge base, surround yourself with as many inspirational figures as you dare.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of an in-person interaction in the real world to get the most out of your experience. Sponsorship does not mean completely cutting ties with the old world of networking. Ask for a meet up in a live environment; face-to-face interaction is still key to building a rapport and likeability is still at the core of cementing relationships and building chemistry.
7. Seek out a Drill Sargent
Feel the burn, run right into the fire! Look for a mentor who will push and challenge you. You need someone who will cut through the noise of ever-supportive aunts and sympathetic friends, someone who won’t accept excuses and who will pull you up to the next level of your career.
8. Crowdsource your courage when you need it most
Don’t just look up for a mentor and forget your peers heading in the same direction. Building a business can at times be extremely lonely, having support from people on your level whose eyes are fixed in the same direction can often give you a well-needed boost at some serious low-points.
9. Shed your skin
Let’s face it – as your business/career grows, some sponsors’ skills will become irrelevant and it will be time to move on. Don’t be afraid to shed your skin but think through an elegant and grateful exit strategy. Just because a sponsor goes dormant, doesn’t mean they stop having your back.
10. Pay it forward
Remember to give back or pass over skills and knowledge garnered. Mutual sponsorship is about recycling and giving back. Whether it’s amongst your own peers or sending it down the ladder a couple of rungs to create your own mentorship, whatever you do, don’t let your knowledge disappear into the ether.
So, there you have it. Could it be that modern life has pared back the perceived haughtiness or overblown commitment previously associated with the ‘Mentor’ label.
Now hit up that Twitter feed and prepare to be surprised with the support that you find out there.