Become a Mentor in 30 Seconds, Flat
Originally posted on LinkedIn December 23, 2013
I spend a lot of time thinking about finding mentors and building relationships with people whom I can look to for advice and guidance. I spend less time, truthfully, looking for mentees. I probably don’t give myself as much credit as I should (who would want me as a mentor?) and I’m also admittedly too self-absorbed as an entrepreneur, writer, and mom-to-three as to be actively on the lookout for others I can help and mentor.
But I should change this. So should you.
Some background. I was caught up in a Nora Ephron frenzy last week, reading anything and everything of hers I could get my hands on— and I came across a tribute to the late writer by Lena Dunham, creator and star of HBO’s series Girls (and four-time Emmy nominee at 26), in remembrance of Nora. Before reading it, I wondered fleetingly, how did Lena make it into Nora’s orbit? How did she get so lucky (successful female writers’ club notwithstanding) as to have a relationship with the Nora Ephron?
It took me a mere two paragraphs to find out. Like so many before and after her, Dunham fell in love with Ephron from afar. But unlike so many others, she did something (in this case, made a movie) that made Ephron take note. And as she says, “in March of 2011, I received a short, perfect e-mail from Ephron, saying she had seen and enjoyed my film and would like to take me to lunch.”
I stopped reading cold. This was almost unfathomable to me—Nora Ephron simply reaching out and offering to take a young female screenwriter / filmmaker to lunch. It was brilliant. It was unexpected. It was so unbelievably generous. Do famous people do this often, I wondered?
I have no idea whether or not Ephron’s generosity is common, in Hollywood or any other industry for that matter, but I do know this—her offer to take Dunham to lunch proved life changing for the as of then, pre-tested, pre-approved, pre Emmy-nominated Dunham.
And so there you have it—you can become a mentor in thirty seconds flat—by offering to take someone young and talented to lunch. That’s it. Instead of waiting for the struggling fashion designer or future novelist to find you, instead of waiting for your company to assign you a random new hire to mentor—simply keep your eyes and ears open.
And when you see that talent, ambition, hard work, optimism, drive or enthusiasm—whatever kernel of passion or light you remember in yourself back in the day—gather your nerve, clear your deck for an hour, and offer up lunch. It really isn’t any more complicated than that. You do have wisdom and insight to share. Twenty-something’s would kill to hear about the path you’ve taken, decisions you’ve made (good and bad), career detours and stumbles, surprising successes and how they’ve changed your life and career.
Just like the NYC Subway system says: if you see something, say something. When you spot potential, seize it and help nurture it. Lunch can change someone’s life. Once you’ve set the wheels in motion, there’s plenty of information out there on how to maintain the relationship and become a great mentor, but simply taking the first step is the biggest hurdle to clear.
Let’s start a movement in honor of the incomparable and timeless Nora Ephron —the take someone talented to lunch day. Who’s taken you to lunch and changed your life?