Don't seek mentors, seek friends
There seems to be a lot of talk around finding a mentor in the tech industry.
Don’t get me wrong, the idea of mentorship is great. How could having a dedicated person for all of your learning be a bad thing?
The problem is that finding a mentor, especially one for free, is not going to work out well most of the time. The last thing you want to do is make someone who didn’t really sign up for it feel like they have a responsibility to help you. There are a lot of people who love the idea of being mentors but in reality, it’s hard to keep up with it on both ends. Either you have to deal with some life situations and can’t make the time to meet with the mentor or vice versa.
The best thing you can do in my opinion is look for friends, not mentors. Here’s how you can make friends but also fill that mentoring gap:
Tell people what you’re doing
This is one of my favorite things to do, in fact, I’m lucky to have always done this for as long as I can remember.
Chris Biscardi once said, “If you don’t tell anyone what you’re doing, people will assume you’re doing nothing”. I think this captures the idea of why you should be expressing your interests often.
Mind you, this doesn’t have to be a social media thing. Literally, tell people what you’re doing, what you’re interested in, what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, how you feel about it anywhere you want to whoever you want, even if they themselves aren’t interested in that particular topic.
One thing people love to do is connect the dots. To get my foot in the door as a software engineer, I told tons of people I wanted to be a software engineer, and some of them would get excited. “Oh! I know someone who is a software engineer, you want me to introduce you?“. This can go a really long way because if that person doesn’t end up being a big help, they probably know someone who can.
There’s another aspect of this that’s just as valuable. Perhaps you told someone who has no idea what technology is that you’re interested in technology. The conversation goes nowhere. Life continues. All of a sudden, the person who knows nothing about technology eventually hits you up to let you know they found a great opportunity in technology and remembered that one conversation y’all had.
Telling people what you’re doing enables them to tell their networks what you’re doing as well!
Telling people what you’re doing is a huge aspect of not just reaching out, but also attracting like-minded people. There are others who want to learn the things you want to learn, others who want to talk about what you’ve learned, and others who want to help you learn what you want to learn. The sky is the limit when you’re just vocal about you.
Find a community
This is what the Internet is for. Going out there and finding people who are into what you’re into. This could mean joining slack channels, forums, subreddits, following specific hashtags on Twitter or Instagram and my personal favorite, discord servers.
When you join communities, you actually are in a place where you can get way more perspective than a solo mentor would be able to give you. Asking a question to a group of people gives you responses from someone who has been doing what you’re trying to do for the past 20 years, or someone who just figured it out yesterday, someone who is also facing the same struggle as you and has just as much experience. All of that being in one place is so valuable. You’re getting wisdom, perspective, and the experience of a group of people that no single person could provide.
You can also post/ask questions at even the unholiest of hours. Are you going to get a response right away? Depending on the community, maybe you will, but someone is gonna wake up the next morning and might feel like replying when they see it. Even if the people who frequently answer your questions aren’t around anymore, someone is going to be there eventually. That’s how communities work.
There’s definitely an art in the way you ask questions and get help. I have a post about asking for help for developers:
The community I learn the most from right now is the Party Corgi discord channel.
Here, I learn so much about JamStack and Serverless, content creation, product and business, and baking and cooking (even though I don’t participate in that channel at all).
It’s one of the healthiest communities I’ve ever been apart of, Chris Biscardi is doing a great job at running it. My journey for seeking friends lead me right into here. Funny thing is, I was invited by someone else who just knew I’d love to chat about the things I mentioned above.
There are so many communities for so many different interests out there. If you joined one and don’t feel at home, you can find others. You’ll see that you’re not going to get a specific mentor, but a bunch of friends that’ll support you on your journey.