Becoming a creative mentor
A reader asks:
How do I know if I’m good enough to be a creative mentor to others? Someone recently asked me to mentor them through the self-publishing process, but I’m not sure if I’m really the right person to do it.
The good thing about this question is you don’t have to have the answer yourself. If other people have started approaching you for advice or help, then they have already judged you as ‘good enough’. Whether or not you see it yourself, other people see that you have something to offer, whether that’s experience, expertise, connections, or just hand-holding. They see you as an expert. That’s amazing, go you! Mentoring can be a truly rewarding experience, and if you get the chance to mentor someone I encourage you to go for it.
But if you still need some reassurance, or if you’re someone reading this who is thinking about becoming a mentor for the first time, there are some questions you can ask yourself to make sure you feel ready.
Do you have a unique skill set or experience that would be valuable to others?
You don’t have to be a world-renowned expert in order to have something to offer, but you do need to have something that other people value. Have you overcome a big obstacle, achieved something in your creative career that most people haven’t, or do you have years of experience that you can pass on to newcomers? Then you have something to offer!
Do you have a genuine interest in helping others?
The mentor relationship is all about helping your mentee grow, whether that’s personally or professionally. Are you the type of person who gets a kick out of helping others, or are you likely to get jealous of your mentee’s achievements? Think about when people have asked for your help in the past – did you get a little thrill in being able to do so, or did you find it annoying? There’s no judgement here – everyone is different, and some people are more inclined to help than others.
Are you a good listener?
A lot of the time, a mentor is the person who offers a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear over coffee. Having expertise to share is important, but you also need to know when to pull back and listen. Sometimes your mentee will just need a bit of encouragement or positive reinforcement, rather than for you to rush in and solve their problems for them. And in fact you shouldn’t try to fix your mentee’s problems, but rather help to guide them towards the answer for themselves.
Do you have the time to give?
Are you going to be able to stick to your mentorship schedule once you lock it in, whether that’s meeting once a week or once a quarter? Being a mentor is a commitment, so make sure you really can commit before you take it on.
Imposter syndrome (aka I’m not good enough)
There’s one more thing I want to touch on, because I get the sense from your question that you don’t believe you are good enough. If you’ve ever had that feeling that everything you’ve achieved is due to luck, that you’re not worthy of your accomplishments, or that you’re just waiting for someone to out you as a fraud, you may be suffering from the very real imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent in creatives and high achievers, and it’s more common in women than men.
If this sounds like you, I’d encourage you to do a little self analysis. Was it really luck that you achieved that thing, or did you actually work really hard, get great feedback along the way, refine your practice as you went and deliver something incredible? Are you really a fraud, or do you actually have results that say otherwise? Sometimes the proof is right in front of us, but it’s not until we go looking for it that we can start to push away that little imposter syndrome voice inside. And remember – if someone’s asking for your help, you’ve already demonstrated, to them at least, that you have something to offer. Now it’s time for you to start believing it too.