Calypso receiving Telemachus and Mentor in the Grotto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Susanna Oreskovic
If you are here, reading this blog, you are probably interested in figuring out how take your creative ideas, talents and work and bring it to the world. Many of us create because we enjoy the process. We think if the work is good enough people will find us, will like us and we’ll be on our way. Unfortunately this is not the case.
This leads to another thought; that not only do we have to be creative and keep the wellspring flowing but now we have to work on the business too! This one fact or the lackluster effort of attending to the business side of your work leaves many a creative unknown and doomed to working their day job pretending to get satisfaction in their off hours.
These thoughts turn to feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty on what to do next.
Searching for help, perhaps you consider if you should find yourself a mentor? What does a mentor do that differs from other forms of guidance such as counseling, coaching or advising? Ask yourself, what is it that you really seek when you consider what a mentor may do for you?
Somehow at the root of this questioning is the feeling that we each want to have someone in our corner, someone who has our interests at heart and someone who can help us navigate the bumps along the way within our chosen field. Essentially, this is what a mentor relationship is– it is a relationship before anything else.
Traditionally mentoring relationships have served their part in socializing new protégés by offering crucial insider information. Just the very interaction itself, the relationship, allows for subtle learning to occur. It allows, for them, to internalize behavioral norms and standards and form a sense of identity and commitment to the field (Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001, p. 6).
More like a Team
Perhaps the word ‘mentor’ is throwing you off, feeling a bit too formal, too academic. The terminology has been around since Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. It’s popularity has grown in the last few decades as can be seen by the proliferation of various programs in education, business, community and social work.
Let’s forget the word mentor, use instead Creative Cohort penned by Jennifer Lee (Right Brain Business Plan). Your Creative Cohorts are people who fill a range of roles; those that will nurture you, those that will mentor or advise you, as well as those to whom you can outsource needed tasks or form strategic allliances with.
Looking at it this way effectively broadens the scope beyond just a need of a mentor but a supporting cast of key mentors and advisors and each one with a specific role.
In your Corner we have…
First look at the people around you that you may know or may want to get to know and choose your team.
1. Inner Circle – Choose those that you trust and feel secure in knowing your hopes and dreams, successes and failures. Pay close attention to this relationship. You may believe your nearest and dearest have your best interests at heart but innocuous remarks that bring up guilt can be enough to derail you. Especially if you are embarking in new directions make sure your inner circle truly nurtures you. Pay attention to suggestions that you’ve changed or are spending too much time on your project or that you are being selfish. Ignore this. To be truly creative and succeed in making a business you need a sense of safety when you look toward your inner circle.
2. Advisors – Select people who are interested in your project and who you think can help given their experience, expertise or connections. Ideally they are not your competition. If you are just beginning in your field, whether you realize it or not, you already have people around you that are guiding you, giving you feedback and encouraging you. It may not be formally called a mentor or advisor relationship but nevertheless it may be. It’s important to get out and meet people. You can volunteer, go to a Meet-up or join a professional network group. Not only will advisors help you in giving their feedback to your ideas and plans, they can be an invaluable source of future referrals and even clients. You just need to be open, approach them and ask.
3. Business Advisors – this is a select group of people you may need to consult occasionally. Typically this may include a lawyer, an accountant, a banker, a graphic designer, an agent. You cannot know nor have time to learn everything in running your business. You will have to consult and pay professional advisors at some point. It is far better to pay out a few hundred dollars now to get it right than to pay much more later to clean up any mess that may inadvertently arise.
4. Collaborators – Here is where your competitors can help you. You can greatly enhance your business by working with others on special projects. The added benefit of pooling resources and talents creates synergy, i.e. the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With collaborators you can form strategic alliances to get your product out to different markets, to new clients that would otherwise not have known about you. It also adds credibility to you and what you offer.
You are not alone
Where ever you may be on your career path, understanding that you are not alone can help you reach your goals. Especially when starting out in a new field we may feel alone. Friends and family may not provide the guidance and insights we need. Looking for a mentor is just one player on your team of many. Call it what you will, your management team, your personnel plan, creative cohorts, supports, collaborators, you already have a team and by consciously calling upon them will get you to where you want to go.