You don’t have to be infallible to be a good mentor

Mentors often come from the most unlikely places. Are you one?

I’ve been thinking about the people who helped me along the way.

One was an aggressive, hardnosed newspaperwoman who sat me down next to her and within a frightening few minutes transformed our twisted prose into solid reportage.

How the hell did she do that? I’m still not sure, but we quickly got better, if only to avoid the wrath of this impatient yet caring teacher. 

I found another mentor in a rather drunken but brilliant young man who was treading water at a local Chicago newspaper when I walked through the door. Not only did this editor give me my first real journalism job, for which I was distinctly unqualified, but he awoke from his stupor to teach me the fundamentals of reporting and writing, and for some reason took great pleasure in my modest triumphs. 

What if people were willing to be mentors but never got the chance? And what if that person is you? We may all feel we’re not quite ready to help someone else, and yet there’s that new person in the department who looks like she’s about to jump out of her skin.

It’s time to step up. Here’s my guide to being a good mentor:

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