(originally posted February 28th, 2005)

I have a mentor, but not in the traditional sense. I was thinking about this a couple of days ago when I received this phone call from someone who’s hoping to contract with me for services. I asked them how they’d heard of me and they mentioned this person’s name, and immediately I had a smile on my face.

It’s always important to have, or to try to be, a mentor. As a mentor, you help someone else along their way, giving advice when needed, listening when needed, and helping out when needed. Many managers or people in other positions end up being left out there by themselves, with no one to go to, and sometimes that’s just isn’t enough.

This guy has always been there for me, even when I didn’t really know him all that well. He helped me get my first director’s job. He called me after I lost that job, telling me he knew I’d been set up, and to not get my hopes down. He got me my next job, when I was having a tough go of it. He’s been a constant reference for me throughout my career. He gave me my first bit of work when I started my own business. And he’s always there to talk to me, these almost 20 years later.

The thing about a mentor is that they don't really have to do much to help you. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to. Sometimes you just need to listen to the wisdom of someone who's gone through things you're dealing with. Sometimes they really do have some great constructive advice.

And anyone can be a mentor. Believe it or not I'm the mentor of a couple of people. I have a nickname that I'm not going to mention right now, but both people ended up calling me the same thing because of advice I've given them over the years. It feels good to help others, especially when they take your advice, or listen to the options you believe you know of and can give them so they can take the route that fits them best. Mentors know that their credibility is on the line, and that your success and happiness is as important as their being able to offer you something every once in awhile that you can use.

This week’s newsletter will be about mentoring, but I wanted to thank him now; thanks Chuck.