One thing that can greatly enhance your educational experience, both in massage school and beyond, is a mentor: a person with wisdom, work and life experience to advise you, guide you and share her knowledge. When you look at the life of anyone achieving goals and living her dreams, you will likely find a great mentor participating in the process.
Why a Mentor Matters
You are not the first massage therapy student to struggle with learning certain concepts, or the first new massage therapist to feel overwhelmed by business challenges. On days you feel discouraged with your progress, it is nice to know someone who can offer you wisdom, encouragement and advice.
A mentor is more than a critic. Anyone can give you an opinion on what you are doing wrong. An effective mentor offers constructive criticism, focuses on helping you discover your potential, and participates in helping you take action. (Spoiler alert: At times, this process may become uncomfortable.)
The best mentor for you probably does not advertise. Your future mentor is already helping others discover their potential, just by being phenomenal at her profession.
Here's what to look for as you begin your search for a massage mentor.
Been There, Done That
A mentor needs competence, confidence and wisdom; and it's critical that he has taken similar steps to those you are about to make. He should also model the art of learning and growing by continuously refining his skills and talents.
A mentor is going to challenge you, and speak to you clearly, concisely and unapologetically when you feel pushed out of your comfort zone. She is straightforward with words, guidance and intention to help you maximize your potential. Sometimes you may not like it, but a mentor wants to be much more than someone who simply encourages you and agrees with you all the time. A great mentor will activate your greatness.
When you make mistakes, a mentor knows how to inspire learning. Effective mentors quickly refocus conversations on solutions and possibilities, rather than dwell on negativity. Anyone can waste time and energy labeling inefficiencies or enabling excuses. The mentor you want thinks differently than those who just criticize or dole out advice.
Identify Your Mentor
Finding your ideal mentor begins with you. When you continuously demonstrate your excitement and commitment to your studies, work and self-growth, the kind of people who make great mentors will take notice of your sparkle and passion and be eager to help you flourish.
Next, classify different qualities and characteristics that inspire you, ones you wish you had, or have but want to improve. Then look for someone who embodies at least one of these traits. (You can have more than one mentor at a time to learn different qualities.)
For example, if you are shy, find someone with powerful people skills, who is outspoken and comfortable speaking in public; it could be one of your massage instructors, or you could attend a local public speaking group, such as Toastmasters, to find someone.
Seek out teachers you loved learning from, as they often have skills not taught in school. If you are unsure about your skill in a massage technique, ask around to find out who is best at it. Ask your teachers, successful alumni or classmates. Who did they learn and get great value from?
Ask if they know someone who is amazing at the technique you are interested in. That person may make a good mentor; or maybe your ideal mentor is the person who taught her. Ask that amazing practitioner which teachers most helped improve her skills.
For business mentoring, find someone living the professional successes you strive for. Seek out others who are successful in your intended field of massage, or even better, wellness practitioners in other fields. Target someone who is a business success and also maintains admirable integrity.
Most importantly, look for someone you feel is out of your league-someone who will stretch you, who has found the harmony of a passionate heart and practical mind, and has mastered his skills. It's a good sign if you feel a bit apprehensive or inadequate when you think about asking him to be your mentor.
Pop the Question
Before approaching a potential mentor, prepare. Learn all you can about her: books she has written, videos she has created, courses she offers, anything she has available to educate or help the general public. A mentor will want to see you have taken the initiative to learn all you can on your own and are ready for more. (Being a self-starter is a core quality mentors look for.)
Now make the call. Yes, a phone call; do not email. Keep it simple. Let him know who you are and how you know each other, then ask if he would be willing to mentor you. Mentors may not say yes the first time, or the fifth time, or the 10th time you ask. They know the value of their time and yours, and won't say yes without considering whether mentoring will be mutually rewarding and beneficial. If he does say yes, ask if he has any books, videos or other recommendations before you start.
Even if the answer is no, follow up with a thank-you email, then a short email now and then about what you gained from any suggestions he gave. Stay positive and stay in touch, and ask again after some time has passed, if it feels right; in business and mentoring, all no means is "not right now."
Stay on the Lookout
If you don't find a mentor right away, don't give up. Be ready: Make certain you are moldable, true to your commitments and word. Stay flexible and resilient, keep your mind and heart open, and know how to ask for more responsibility. Practice becoming the type of person you believe your future mentor to be.
Most of all, enjoy the process of finding a mentor. Your growth begins the moment you start looking.