Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.

That quote is from the cult classic, “Better Off Dead” and has long been stuck in my head as my life’s roadmap.

It’s been a long time since I last wrote.

If I were to be honest, I’d admit there’s no reason other than my lack of discipline but in the time I’ve been literarily mute, I have started a new job, a new year, and had a birthday.

My last birthday, I wrote about how little the numbers of your birthday matter – how so many of the professional women I admire were 20+ years my senior when they accomplished what it is that I admire them for.

On this year’s birthday, a friend gave me some great advice – that I should use a bit of time from my “work from home day” for writing.  She isn’t as close a friend as I would like but she honored me by knowing how important writing is to my spiritual wholeness and by asking me about it.

So here I sit, at 11:16pm on my WFH day, scratching out a few thoughts.

And it is this friend of mine – who took time out on HER rare night out to celebrate with me on mine – who reminded me of a post I’ve been dying to write.  It is a post about who and what we admire and how we guide and are guided.

In moments of self-loathing and melancholic nostalgia, I will bemoan my assertion that I’ve suffered from a lack of mentors.  I use this term like I know what it is.  Like someone who could easily answer “Who is your hero?” or “Who is your role model?”

Am I the only person who doesn’t feel like I had one?

Am I so critical that no one measured up for my aspirational admiration?  Am I so sheltered that I lacked esposure to stand-outs?  I have to assume that neither are true but I stall when trying to recall help/guidance/direction in my professional life.

Now I’m knocking on the door of 40.  I’ve had one marriage, two kids, and more jobs than I care to admit to.  As I evaluate my value – fiscally, empirically or otherwise, I revisit the concept of mentor with equal parts sense and wonder.

In my adult years, I’ve counted a number of incredible women as my friends.  And perhaps I should view them in some capacity as mentors.  They’ve weighed in and stood by as I explored and failed and rebounded.  But I think it is my insufferable ambition that makes me want to identify someone just beyond ‘peer’ status as an advisor, a confidant, a professional coach.

I have had a few female bosses in my career.  My Aussie boss who got me started in this crazy world of internet advertising went on to launch her own site and become a bit of a maven.  A couple of peers turned bosses have traded sales roles for management ones and made significant marks on their companies.  A former CEO remains a sentimental mystery whom I wished I had known better.

But then there are friends too – or phriends, perhaps – but let’s not let cynicism ruin this, eh?  I have perhaps, half a dozen friends who are wildly accomplished in their fields.  For example, one recent friend who is executive status, politically connected, and philanthropic; another is a self-made social correspondent and contributor, published author, and well-recognized speaker/blogger; A former colleague created her own network of bloggers, sold it successfully and remains a consistent presence in the social and digital publishing reviews.  These three in particular, I think would take my call and work with me on a project.

I have asked them about their path to success exactly… let me count…. ZERO times.

I have asked them for advice on my own zigzag, mishmosh career precisely the same number of times.

I’ve another friend who has finished a book and is in the process of publishing it who asked me to collaborate on her next one.  COLLABORATE ON A BOOK!?!?!?  The honor!  The thrill!  I rewarded her by doing and writing almost nothing.  And then I had a baby and she let me slither away in humiliation.

And then there are the stable, serious, no-frills sugarmamas who just get the job done day in and day out.  One of my oldest friends is a single mom who owns multiple properties and has worked at the same company for a dozen years.  Another has been married for eight? I think?  and manages a family life and a sales team with grace.  HOW DO THEY DO THIS?  I’ve no idea.  I am exactly the kind of self-absorbed, pity-party-of-one fool who never asked.

Seriously.

I’ve done this to myself.

The truth is – I suck at asking for help.  I always have.

I don’t know how or where to begin.  I wouldn’t know the first thing about opening up honestly to someone about my professional goals.  And I dare say that I’ve managed to land on my feet more than once despite that handicap.

But I do have goals.  And perhaps they’re to be fulfilled when I’m in my Ariana-Hilary-Nancy years.  But shouldn’t I be mapping a plan for them now?  And writing about it in the process?

These are the questions I would be asking anyone who would listen at Blissdom right now, were I there with wine in hand.  Since some of the aforementioned heroines are there, I’d best simmer a bit and ask them upon their return.

In the meantime, who do you turn to for the really big career advice?  Where did your best counseling come from and how did you ask for it?  What happened when you took or didn’t take it?

I’m asking…

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anjali
    Feb 24, 2012 @ 13:17:27

    http://blogs.chatham.edu/careerdevelopment/2012/01/31/career-advice-for-women-the-best-and-worst-of-whats-out-there-part-two/

    I recently read an interview with Thia Breen, President of Estee Lauder. She mentions the topic of mentors in her article and the attached blog has that quote.

    Reply

    • schugarmama
      Feb 27, 2012 @ 10:02:08

      Great article, Anjali. Thanks for sharing. Somewhat comforting to read the dissenting opinion that mentors aren’t necessary. I would love to study how self-esteem/confidence factors in.

      Reply

  2. Cynthia
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 11:41:35

    Wow. What an interesting post … for many reasons. I skimmed this when you first posted it, but was rushed and distracted so I made a mental note to come back to it. I did and want to share three things. 1). I have to admit when I read this paragraph “Now I’m knocking on the door of 40. I’ve had one marriage, two kids, and more jobs than I care to admit to. As I evaluate my value – fiscally, empirically or otherwise, I revisit the concept of mentor with equal parts sense and wonder.” I really swallowed hard, completely understood the concept and felt a twinge of envy because as I quickly approach 40 I have no spouse, no family, not even a really good local in case of emergency contact and have been in the same job forever. 2). I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder because I until I went through the second time and clicked on each link I did not recognize myself. 3). I love the concept of mentor, I’ve been lucky to have several “situational” mentors at various times, I can’t point to one person. I love the idea of asking for advice and help. Let’s do that together!

    Reply

  3. schugarmama
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 10:00:24

    Cynthia, you have no idea how much you’re admired. And yes, this is probably the most passive way I’ve ever broached the idea of asking for help but I’m so glad to read you’re game. I’m amazed at the accomplishments of my friends and am finally in a head-space not deluded with ego or willfullness to actually listen when people I admire and respect offer an opinion contrary to my own. Looking forward to talking soon!

    Reply

  4. LisaOnTheLoose
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 13:33:54

    Oh Girl! We are long overdue for a chat. We need to sit on a patio somewhere at some point in the future, with wine in hand and talk about stuff like this.

    I have so much admiration for you and everything you’ve achieved. You’ve given me some great advice over the time we’ve known each other on career and life stuff. And I often wonder how YOU manage to do it all. I have started asking this question of women I admire more and more. Not just how to juggle family and career but how do you prevent burnout when you’ve got a demanding career. How do you stay inspired? I turn 40 around the end of this year and, like you, have been taking stock and trying to figure out where I want to be 10, 20, 30 years from now.

    I think it is a beauty is in the eye of the beholder like Cynthia mentioned. Cynthia, I only know a bit about you through Schugarmama. And I have a lot of admiration for you. I mean, HELLO! Where you’ve gotten in your career and with such a respected company — you’ve achieved so much.

    But it is comforting to know that as much as you both have achieved, you’ve still got questions on this sort of stuff too.

    And Schugarmama, please share what you’re writing. Or what you’d like to write about. So we all can cheer you on! :) Go get ‘em!

    Reply

    • schugarmama
      Feb 29, 2012 @ 13:45:44

      Oh for crying out loud! I feel unworthy of all this support. HOORAY for me that I’m lucky enough to have collected so many outstanding examples of achievement – in so many different areas. Got your PM, Lisa. I can’t wait to talk.

      Reply

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