[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Thanks to Dunechaser at Flickr for the image"][/caption] If you looked at my list of mentors you would probably be shocked. On that list you would see a couple egotistical jerks, someone that overshares to a degree that makes you cringe, some bad parents, terrible bosses, a self-promoting lunatic, and a lot of selfish spouses. These people aren't my mentors because I have bad taste in mentors. They are my mentors because they have other amazing redeeming qualities and I only look to them for advice in the areas that they excel.
Penelope Trunk gives great advice about how to move ahead in your career, she's also a great blogger that shows her personality in her writing. I once sent her an email asking for advice and she wrote back and told me that she loved the language in the blog header that you see above. I got so giddy, I felt like a blog groupie. "OMG, she knows I'm alive!!!!" I love all of these things about Penelope and turn to her blog for advice when I need a kick in the butt when it comes to my career but Penelope as a wife and then ex-wife make me cringe. My biggest fear as a career-focused person is that I'll alienate the people that I care most about, so I don't go to her for marriage advice.
Tim Ferriss is another mentor from afar that has been so useful as I have been figuring out my career path. He wrote the 4-Hour Workweek and taught me a lot about getting to the most important part of my workday and even more about figuring out what I am working for. He is a shameless self-promoter and it's been working pretty well for him. I don't go to his blog for advice about modesty.
I also have a wide-range of more traditional mentors that I actually have met in person, of all crazy things. I usually ask them for more in-depth advice about a problem I am facing because I've seen them handle the same thing expertly or because I have heard people talk about them and that issue is something that always comes up as a strength. Most of them are older and have more experience in philanthropy or some other field. Some are younger and are just naturally gifted in that area or have been become an expert on negotiation or networking through pure will. Those are the people I like to talk to the most because they give me hope that I can learn those skills too.
Don't sit around waiting for you fairy godmentor. Find people around you and far away that have skills that you want to cultivate and ignore the parts of them that you don't want to emulate. You'll get more out of the experience and you won't be disappointed because you can't find that perfect match.
Who has been a helpful mentor for you and what skills do they have that you want to develop?