How to find a mentor (on Twitter???)


June 8, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

Yesterday I shouted on twitter:

How do you find a mentor when you’re on top of your game in your very limited physical world? Go virtual?

It got some retweets but no deliberate replies. Mistakenly or not, I felt like I was giving the advice, the final question mark was unnoticed. Well, I wasn’t. I really wanted to know (still do) about other people’s experiences.

I started crying to Vicky Loras, who is one of the greatest people I met on Twitter, about my wanting to find a mentor and that it was really hard face-to-face, I was looking for someone to take a look at and criticize the many new things I’ve been doing such as, this blog, conference workshops, some articles, etc. because I am not sure what I’m good at, or where there’s some potential at least, so it’s often difficult to focus and all that story. Anyway, Vicky encouraged me to go virtual and she started considering the same thing, she also mentioned something like  “I would like him/her to mentor me in general“. And we considered finding a mentor on Twitter.

I’m still thinking about how approach that, it’s a bit weird to me, doing that online. I also mentioned in the occasion that I felt trust is hard to emerge not being face-to-face with your mentor. After reading a couple of blogs and reflecting more about that I found out a couple of things I’ll list below.

Have a very good question. Getting peoples attention is all about asking the right question at the right time. If you ask your potential mentor: What do you think about my talks? and he says; it sucks. How are you going to improve? Instead, ask ‘What five things you’d suggest I do in order to get a speaker proposal accepted in the conference you want to speak at next year?’

Set your goals first. A mentor is not a career coach. If I’m not sure if I should focus on blogging, speaking, teaching, whatever, it’s not a mentor I need. Know your game well, use your mentor to advance faster and grow wise. If you want to find someone to listen to how difficult your life is, get a shrink.

Be insistent. I’ve tried a couple of times to get feedback from people I look up to, they rarely reply, maybe because I rarely insist. Just sending one email is not enough.

Be yourself. This sounds obvious, but it isn’t. We have a tendency to look like we’re THE ONE, when we need something from someone. No façades if you need a mentor, because if you need one, of course you’re not THE ONE.

Don’t be shy. Once you identify a potential mentor, talk to him! (well, this is easier said than done, but I’m really shy and today I contacted someone who I barely know on a personal level, but who I admire the most professionally)

I guess these five things are enough, I’m not a specialist in the subject and the aims of this post it to raise that first question above, not to give a solution. Just in case you haven’t noticed, I’m desperate for critical feedback, so feel free to post any comments about anything you’ve seen me doing so far, it will be much appreciated and I don’t hold grudges for things that help me improve.


4 thoughts on “How to find a mentor (on Twitter???)

  1. Vicky Loras says:

    Hi Willy!
    Thanks for a great post (and a great tweet – real food for thought!) and thanks for the kind mention!
    I agree with all the points you mention and especially the “Don’t be shy” point (we shouldn’t be shy, that is why our mentors are there for – for us to discover them and for them to mentor us!) and also for the “Be insistent” point. We should insist. That way we can find the most appropriate mentor. And it goes for everything I guess – there is a Greek saying that says “He who insists,wins”!
    Thank you very much for a thought-provoking tweet and post – and especially this period that I am also looking for a mentor!
    Kindest regards,

  2. leozeh says:

    Hey Willy,

    I just came across your blog and I must say it is pretty good! Really like the stuff you have posted and knowing that you’re in Brazil makes me even happier.

    I am brazilian but have been living and working abroad for the past 6 years of my life.

    Would enjoy exchanging ideas and giving feedback!


    btw. added you on twitter.

  3. kfbunny says:

    Living and working in Toronto, Leo. Be specific. We need mentions from time to time. We can’t just give Europe all the ELT attention. 🙂

    Willy, I love this idea of mentoring through Twitter. I’ve never seen such a large grouping of actively participating and engaging teachers in one community as on Twitter. Unfortunately, in North America, ESL teachers tend to fall into a possessive or a technology-fearing nature. It can make mentoring a difficult option online, but like you, I am trying to change that.

    Also, our TESOL programs are so short, new teachers are thrust into the classroom before really being that prepared. I strongly believe these teachers could benefit from ongoing mentoring if only they would seek it.

    • Hi Tyson,
      Thanks for your comments! And for the effort in decentralizing European ELT : )

      ‘Possessive nature’ is a curious term. I see the same here in Brazil, and that must be everywhere I guess. Some people know a lot about something but are not really into sharing that. On the other hand, some people are thirsty for practical knowledge, the ones we won’t find on books, and have no one around to guide them, that’s where web 2.0 plays an important role.

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