Your 20s is like being a baby: Why mentors are important.

One of my colleague’s wife recently said something that really stuck with me.  We were chatting about marriages and people in their early 20s getting married and she said something along the lines of not understanding that because she felt like your 20s is like being a baby, you’re relearning so much about life and growing so much.

I was struck by her comment because I never thought of it that way, but her words felt true to what I’m facing.  Your 20s, especially during the post-college/pre-successful career phase, is like an infant.  You’re essentially learning how to be an adult – one with loans, real bills to pay, figuring out your own next steps.  It was easy in high school.  You were expected to go to college.  It was easy after college, you were expected to get a job.  But what happens between the time you land your first job and the rest of life?  We no longer have a set four year plan and a clear road ahead of us.  Who is there to guide us and be our backseat driver?

When you’re a baby, your teachers are automatically given to you.  Your parents are there to feed you, change you, teach you how to walk and talk.  As an adult, teachers aren’t automatically assigned.  Instead, you have to actively go look for them.  Many career development blogs, business books, inspirational speeches talk about the importance of finding mentors in your career to help provide guidance and advice as you navigate through your path.

Mentors come from so many walks of life.  Some might be handed to you.  If you’re in a more corporate, formal environment, you may find yourself assigned a coach to help you develop through the organization.  At other places, mentors might be ones that find you or you stumble upon.

Mentors come from all walks of life.  I, myself, have been fortunate to have found solid mentors so early in my career whose advice, encouragement, and criticism have helped shape me during what I consider one of the most pivotal years of my career.  There’s one that I look to for guidance on day to day events and has been a great female role model as well; a colleague who’s senior to me and is always my biggest fan but never afraid to call me out on my BS; a former manager who has some of the best quotes and is not afraid to bring me back down to earth when I’m getting ahead of myself; a career coach from university who has been a great third party listener since my junior year; and my group of friends who while aren’t mentors in the traditional sense, have been nothing but the best sounding board over the last two years.

If you’ve just entered the workforce or haven’t found a mentor that works with your style, fear not, because over time you’ll start to build those relationships and find someone willing to invest in you.  In the meantime, there are so many great books that can provide inspiration.  Levo Lounge, a website community for young women, has a great list of career books they recommend to read.  I’ve ordered half the list and am in the middle of Cathie Black’s Basic Black.  If you’re reading some great books that aren’t on Levo Lounge’s list, share them with me.  I would love to add them to my collection.

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