In order to succeed in the tech world, the most frequently touted piece of advice is to find a mentor—a mentor is someone you aspire to be and has probably been down the same path that you have. And then of course, there is advice about how to find a mentor.
Follow them on Twitter.
Ask for a coffee chat.
I bought into all of it because it seemed way too easy. Have coffee with this one person and your career will just miraculously take off. BOOM!
If only that were true.
This whole process of finding a mentor and all the rules involved (don’t ask someone to be a mentor, it has to be an organic relationship; coffee is okay, dinner isn’t yada yada) seem like an elaborate dating ritual and a total waste of time. Why? Because with the internet and the ability to cyberstalk possible “mentors” comes the ability to get all of this knowledge for free (no coffee involved)! All the best possible mentors in the world are sharing their wisdom for everyone to consume. They’re answering every question you could ever have and then some.
For instance, as someone interested in product management and entrepreneurship, I have subscribed to over 15 newsletters, 30 blogs and 50 Twitter accounts. There’s more information there than I could ever hope to consume. There are live podcasts, snap stories, interviews – there are infinite ways to learn. And the best part?
It’s from some of the best minds in the industry.
It’s geography agnostic. I have the same opportunities to learn sitting here in Bangalore, India as someone in Silicon Valley does.
Would it be cool to get a cup of coffee with say Mark Suster? Sure, just because I would have a chance to meet someone I truly admire in person. But meeting someone for the sake of meeting someone with an agenda to further your own career doesn’t sit right with me. If you really wanted to learn, there are mentors abound. You just need to look in the right places with the right intentions.
Talk to people because you want to talk them, not because you identified a list of probable mentors on a spreadsheet and you now spend a good hour a day kissing ass on social media.
I’m not opposed to the idea of having a mentor, but I object to how we go about finding one, or really even the need for one in its current definition. Personally, I’ve gotten to this point in my career by having role models, not mentors—just absorbing everything they so generously give to the world has helped me advance my career. So yeah, stop trying to look for that one elusive mentor. There is no shortcut to success. True passion and interest trump all the other bullshit in any case.