be your own mentor

Request: “I was wondering if there is anyone out there looking to mentor another Information Architect. While I […]

Request: “I was wondering if there is anyone out there looking to mentor another Information Architect. While I believe I have the basics down, regularly assume leadership responsibilities in defining the Information Architecture process & methodology at my current & past employers, and have in fact mentored junior IA’s, I’m looking for someone to help me extend my expertise and focus my professional development. Because there are so few of us who focus on Information Architecture & the User Experience, I have actually been offered V-level & directorship positions. Frankly, I’m afraid. Of course I’m flattered and anxious to build my resume, but I don’t want to extend too far beyond my level of proficiency.”

Response: “I was in your same shoes a while ago. I was looking and looking for a mentor, but there was no one– no one who knew more than me and who also had the time/inclination to mentor. I decided to become my own mentor. I read books, surfed the lists, gave myself goals, had lunch or breakfast with anyone and everyone I could, joined other IA’s in their work, and learned from the people I was mentoring (everyone in the world can teach you something).

It sounds like to me the world is telling you you don’t need a mentor. maybe it’s time to take a big scary chance and step up to the plate and take that VP job. Perhaps instead of one mentor, you can create a kind of “board of advisors” of senior people you can call on for advise when things get hairy. I have one of those, it includes a couple creative directors, a few senior IA’s, an engineer, a woman who owns her own company and a couple book authors on web subjects. These folks are there when I’m perplexed, or need a hand with advice/references/etc.

I think we as women are particularly susceptible to not taking risks like men do, and are often afraid to go for jobs when we aren’t a perfect match for the job description. I’ve seen guys fake it through interviews, then madly read up on the job they went for and teach themselves on the job. Worse yet, I’ve seen guys fake it to get the job, and fake it through the job. I think this everytime I am faced with a challenge I’m scared of. And then I get mad, and I go for it. It’s usually very hard when I take these big steps, and I get horribly stressed, I get insomnia, I cry– and then I’ve done it, I figure it out and I have one more thing under my belt and I’m another rung up the ladder.

Anytime you’re really scared, go for it. Every time you beat that fear, you get tougher.”


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