Why Finding Your Best Mentor Has Nothing to Do With the C-Suite

Photograph by Mark Airs via Getty Images

Photograph by Mark Airs via Getty Images

I was lucky with my first mentor. He was my manager at my second job out of college. He took a special interest in my career goals, the things I liked to do outside of work, and how he might be able to help me develop into the professional I wanted to be. He didn’t limit his attentions to my job performance in that specific role or where I might go within the company. Indeed, when I realized I didn’t even want to stay in that field, he supported me and guided my decision to go back to grad school. As a manager, he could’ve tried to keep me in that job, but as my mentor, he was more concerned with my long-term success and personal development.

Clicking with a mentor is a little like cultivating a new friendship; it’s most likely to gel if you’re not consciously working at it. The best mentoring relationships develop organically, not by force of will. While most people hope to have an invested mentor in their lives, it’s not the kind of thing you can put on your to-do list and set a deadline for.

But when a strong mentor candidate materializes, you have to be prepared to listen and take it seriously when he or she sizes you up and weighs in on where you need to improve. You have to be ready to speak openly and honestly about your dreams, fears, and limitations, and you have to be willing to try new things, learn, and grow.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about finding a mentor and building a relationship that’s rewarding to you both:

Don’t label it

At the time, I didn’t see my second manager as my mentor. I knew he was a caring person who always had worthwhile advice and that I could speak my mind to him in a way I couldn’t with other senior execs. Later, after I moved out of town, started grad school, and transitioned to a different industry, I realized calling him “my former manager” didn’t do him justice. Your perfect mentor might be right under your nose, and you haven’t even realized it yet.

Don’t limit it

Your mentor doesn’t have to be a CEO or big shot. Your mentor doesn’t need to work in your industry or even be well-connected within it, though that could certainly be helpful. Having a mentor is about so much more than career advancement. A great mentor will also help you develop into a better thinker, problem-solver, and teammate. Mentorships are unmatched for helping you develop soft skills that will serve you well throughout your life in all of your relationships. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and yours could come from anywhere — a teacher, a coach, a retiree, a parent — the list goes on.

Don’t force it

People can sense when you’re trying too hard to woo a potential mentor. You’re better off going about your regular business and letting connections develop without pressure. But you do have to put yourself out there. While networking events are good for connecting with new peers, they don’t necessarily lend themselves to regular, ongoing contact with someone inspiring. Find a balance so you get what you need from your mentor without demanding unreasonable time and attention.

Don’t neglect it

Relationships take work, and mentorships are no different. Your mentor may not be your manager, but he isn’t your buddy either. Don’t blow off lunch dates or fail to follow through on things you say you’ll do. Show gratitude and respect for your mentor’s experience, wisdom, and support. It might feel like you’re doing more taking than giving in the relationship, but the best mentors realize they can learn from the experience, too, so be an active participant — not just an empty vessel waiting to get filled with knowledge.

A great mentor isn’t going to be your unconditional defender or career savior. A great mentor will push you, guide you, and support you in reaching your fullest potential, but he can’t do the work for you. He may, however, be cheering the loudest when you achieve.

This article originally appeared in Fortune Insiders.The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership.

Evolving Our Marketplace Pricing

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As Udemy continues to grow, it’s important that we evolve our marketplace to foster the best possible place for students and instructors to achieve their learning and teaching goals. In April, we modified our course prices and promotions. Since making that change four months ago, we’ve learned that students and instructors value more flexible pricing and course promotions.

Starting August 22, we’re expanding the range of list prices and bringing back our popular fixed price, site-wide deals. This expanded price range of $20 – $200 allows us to continue to build a more diverse, dynamic marketplace for students and instructors.

Udemy is one of the largest global marketplaces for learning and teaching online, with over 40,000 courses taught by more than 20,000 instructors. This flexible pricing reinforces our commitment to making learning accessible to the greatest number of students and rewards instructors who share their expertise with the world.

As always, once you have purchased a course, and keep your account in good standing, you are able to learn at your own pace, and have lifetime access to the course material.

For any questions or to contact our Support team, please consult our FAQs. We’re excited to continue to evolve as the best possible place for anyone in the world to learn, achieve, and succeed.

Gregory Boutte
VP of Content

August 12, 2016: Friday news roundup

Who’s got Olympic fever? We’ve got Olympic fever! So, you’ll understand if a few of this week’s articles are related to things happening in Rio.

How Olympic athletes stay motivated
One of the most astounding takeaways from watching the Olympics is realizing how dedicated these athletes had to be just to qualify, regardless of their chances for a medal. In many cases, these competitors have put the rest of their lives on hold to focus on their sport, which seems all the more amazing when you consider less mainstream events like archery, fencing, or canoeing that clearly don’t have a long-term career path. Olympic athletes are some of the best role models when it comes to staying motivated even when nobody’s watching.

She turned 43 today, has a job, a son, and a now a world record
Speaking of role models, did you hear the story of Kristin Armstrong? The headline says it all. For the rest of us, having a job and family responsibilities is plenty to have on our plates; Olympians layer on an extra helping.

Psychology has identified three mindsets shared by people who actually follow through on their goals
Most of us are not training for the Olympics, but we all should have goals that give us a reason to keep pushing forward. And most of us, being mere mortals, don’t always follow through on our good intentions, which demotivates us further and makes us less inclined to set stretch goals next time. This author has some practical advice for changing the way you think about goals so you’ll set yourself up for success.

US Navy SEALs conquer fear using four simple steps
Stress and fear are prime causes for failing to follow through on good intentions. Who better than a Navy SEAL to offer wise words on overcoming fear? I’ll bet a lot of Olympians use the same techniques, and there’s a lot of overlap between these four tips and advice in the articles above for staying motivated and following through on goals. Spoiler alert: being prepared can alleviate a lot of anxiety.

5 lessons kids can teach you about pitching your startup
Olympians and Navy SEALs are obvious role models, but we can learn a lot of lessons from kids, too, when it comes to being clear, honest, and direct. This article is about pitching a new business concept, but the advice applies to anyone needing to communicate an idea (which is pretty much all of us). Like kids, adults are drawn to storytelling, appreciate analogies, and don’t want their time wasted.

The Unexpected Joys of #FirstSevenJobs
Did you see this meme going around social media this week? It started on Twitter when someone asked followers to list their first seven jobs and blew up from there, with famous people from Buzz Aldrin to Sheryl Sandberg sharing their early job experiences. As this article points out, the meme helped demonstrate the varied paths successful people take and reinforced the idea that you don’t have to be locked into the first things you try.

Hidden gems for August

Hidden GemsWe love courses on tech and engineering, really we do. But that’s not all there is to life—or to learn! Caroline and DQ from Udemy’s quality review team know this, and so they’ve wandered off the beaten path to find these new courses to round out your knowledge of food, art, fitness, and more.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 8.54.11 AMBest Man’s Wedding Speech – Made To Fit You Perfectly
What we liked: DON’T mention exes or drink too much before your speech; DO thank the bride and groom and compliment them on the lovely event. Getting asked to be a best man at someone’s wedding is a huge honor, but it comes with great responsibility: the best man’s toast. With help from Lynn Ferguson, a master of storytelling, you’ll have no problem getting over your nerves.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 8.58.21 AMCHASING AUTUMN – Paint Realistic Watercolour and Botanicals
What we liked: Yep, autumn is right around the corner! This course will get you excited to see the trees change color. Our favorite lecture was “choosing our subject,” where we see instructor Heidi Willis walking around outside looking for leaves on the ground to draw and paint. With a variety of practical tips, this course will take you from inspiration to execution so you can create your own watercolor masterpieces.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 9.06.07 AMCreate Gourmet Vegetarian Salads with Superfood Ingredients
What we liked: Take advantage of the summer and fall bounty of produce to whip up delicious and healthy dishes with instructor Victoria Holder, who walks you through every step of the process. She’s included PDF printouts of all the recipes she covers in the course for easy reference.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 9.19.19 AMPrenatal Yoga with Jane Austin
What we liked: Certified yoga instructor Jane Austin exudes empathy and caring in this course for expectant moms. She encourages students to listen to their bodies, stay connected to their breathing, and be present with their growing babies. Jane incorporates her experience as a midwife, doula, childbirth educator, and parent to help students of all levels get both energized and relaxed.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 9.22.10 AMDesign Your Own Fonts. Plus A Bunch Of Typography Secrets.
What we liked: Think you’ve got the next Arial or Calibri up your sleeve but not sure how to make it a reality? This course is a great introduction to creating your own font. Type designer Natanael Gama provides a great overview of how to choose a suitable font, the difference between desktop and web fonts, and pretty much anything else you’ve wondered about typography. Perfect for web designers, graphic designers, and anyone with a curiosity about how typography works.

August 5, 2016: Friday news roundup

Welcome to the first roundup of August. Here in SF, this time of year means wearing sweaters while the rest of the country swelters. Grab a cup of tea and warm up to this week’s interesting and eclectic tidbits from around the internet.

The hottest start-up market? Baby boomers
While food delivery startups falter and the app market contracts to favor only a few big players, some serial entrepreneurs are finding fertile terrain in new businesses catering to the needs and desires of aging baby boomers. Dubbed “the longevity economy” in this article, the demographic offers tremendous opportunity for startups targeting the country’s estimated 74.9 million baby boomers, who outnumber millennials and have more money to spend too.

How to increase your influence
Looking to play a bigger role in your workplace? You don’t have to be in the C-suite to do so. Wharton professor Jonah Berger has great suggestions for raising your professional profile and having greater sway over group decisions. Another way to have influence, he points out, is by being a motivator of others.

3 big myths about workplace learning
The #1 myth, according to this article, is that employees don’t have time for learning. What they really don’t have is motivation and incentive. If it’ll help their careers or enrich their lives, workers will gladly fit learning into their routines. The other two myths are ripe for debunking too!

If you’re not outside your comfort zone, you won’t learn anything
We’ve heard it before: fear holds people back from adopting a learning mindset. We fear doing things that are new and unfamiliar and may make us feel inept. But those same skills can be prerequisites to advancement, and avoidance is a career liability. Here’s some advice for biting the bullet and getting on with those “unpleasant, but professionally beneficial, tasks.”

An Olympic feat: Seeing pictures before they happen
Photography is one of the most popular course categories on Udemy, and sports photography is one of the most celebrated genres of the medium. It takes a discerning eye and quick reflexes to capture the split-second moments of action and drama at events like the Olympic Games. Rio will be the eighth Olympics for NY Times staffer Chang Lee, who talks about how he got into sports photography and shares stories from his career.

July 29, 2016: Friday news roundup

Before getting into the news, I wanted to share a quote from Vice President Joe Biden’s DNC speech earlier this week. Speaking of increasing pay for teachers, he said, “Being a teacher isn’t what they do; it’s who they are.” That line jumped out because it perfectly captures the ethos of instructors on the Udemy platform too. It’s why we created a marketplace where everyday experts can share their knowledge—because there are a lot of people who may not work in schools, but they are teachers at heart.

When it comes to brain function, you “use it or lose it”
Responding to a question on Quora, a neuropsychologist explains that learning one thing doesn’t exhaust your capacity to learn something else. On the contrary, as we’ve said here before, getting into the learning mindset actually helps you open up to new ideas and skills. You’ve got to make learning a part of your routine just as much as regular exercise.

Making it: The hands-on movement that impacts our economy, education and culture
We know lots of Udemy students consider themselves creators and tinkerers, and we love that! Most of them say they started young too. Here, the founder of Maker Media describes how kids today are playing with technology to fuel their imaginations and have fun, but they’re also developing valuable skills around problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, and more.

The golden age of teaching yourself anything
This is a long but fascinating deep-dive into self-motivated learners and the emerging crop of technology-based tools available to help anyone become an autodidact. The article posits that it’s “neither intelligence nor technique that holds people back from being successful self-taught learners.” Rather, it’s insecurity—fear of not being smart enough. People with a true growth mindset, however, “don’t worry about how smart they are. What matters is their openness toward developing their skills and talents.”

The incalculable value of finding a job you love
Plenty of research has been conducted showing that money doesn’t bring happiness. On the other hand, doing work that’s personally satisfying and aligned with one’s values doesn’t always pay the rent. This columnist advises readers to become experts at something people value highly and that also fully absorbs their hearts and minds, which, he acknowledges, is easier said than done.

eHarmony has a younger, hotter business on the side: job placement
Does it ever feel like finding the perfect job fit is as elusive as finding the perfect mate? Online matchmaker eHarmony sees the similarity and a big business opportunity. They’re using the same software that pairs compatible couples to connect employers with suitable job seekers. Could it be a recipe for true love?

Be the first to master iOS 10

iphone in handIt’s a big day at Udemy for iPhone app developers, as we unveil new iOS 10 courses hot off the presses.

Apple released the most recent public beta of iOS 10 just last week, not long after the developer beta was unveiled at WWDC in June. As always, Udemy’s top instructors have been quick to respond so students don’t have to wait to continue learning about the freshest technology on the market. If you need proof that students accomplish amazing things with the skills they learn on Udemy, read the story of Nick Di Vona, who took Mark Price’s iOS 9 course and saw his very first app reach #2 internationally in the App Store.

Mark and fellow instructor Rob Percival, among others, are both offering brand-spankin’ new iOS 10 courses starting today, so go check ‘em out! 

Putting the science in Udemy’s learning platform

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Jess drops some science at Udemy LIVE

By Jessica Ashraf, Teaching and Learning Specialist, Udemy

People come to Udemy to learn something, and we want their time on our site to be worthwhile and rewarding. It takes a lot more to ensure a good learning experience than simply offering courses, however, and this is where learning science comes in. We’ll be spending some time on the Udemy blog exploring the field of learning science and the role it plays in our marketplace.

Introduction to learning science
Learning science, simply put, is the study of how people learn, and it informs how learning environments are designed. It draws upon research from fields like educational psychology, cognitive science, computer science, and anthropology. What distinguishes learning science from these related fields is its focus and approach.

Learning science seeks to bridge the gap between research and practical application. Learning scientists develop theories and frameworks about learning from which they can devise strategies and implement them in learning environments. Most of this research is conducted in real-life settings, unlike other disciplines where research happens in very controlled, unnatural settings. Not surprisingly, new technologies and online learning models are a major focus in the world of learning science these days.

Applying science to the student experience
Learning effectively on your own is actually quite hard. You have to make a lot of conscious and sometimes nonintuitive decisions before you even get started, and countless potential distractions and barriers can get in the way of your progress. For example, you may believe that rewatching a video is good for absorbing its content, but “recalling” is actually more effective, though it’s also more difficult.

First, you have to decide you want to learn something. Then you need to figure out which course to take and focus your attention there, somehow blocking out Facebook, YouTube, or whatever else you’ve got open in other browser tabs. You’ll also have to discipline yourself to complete exercises presented by the instructor and to stay engaged over the duration of the course.

Given the size of our marketplace (11 million students and counting), Udemy caters to a vast audience of learners, and we can’t control for all their distractions and personal environments. Many people taking courses on Udemy describe themselves as motivated, self-directed learners—the type who are naturally inclined to push through any interruptions in their quest for knowledge. Nonetheless, we have built Udemy to be a distraction-free, easy-to-use platform that’s engaging, rewarding, and conducive to learning for all sorts of students. We do our own user research and testing to determine the best online content, tools, and interfaces for learning.

Learning science @Udemy
Learning scientists are constantly developing new strategies for how people can learn best in our quickly evolving, technology-driven world, and we’re following the latest thinking to see how we can apply those concepts to Udemy. We tap into the science of learning for everything from product development and strategy planning to creating training resources and offering individual support to instructors. I may have “learning scientist” in my title, but everyone else here cares deeply about offering the best possible learning experience to Udemy students too. We all read up on best practices for online teaching and learning and gather cross-functional groups to share ideas.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a little passionate about learning too! Stay tuned for future blog posts where we’ll dig deeper into learning science and discuss how insights from learning science research are put to use at Udemy.

July 22, 2016: Friday news roundup

Lots of news to cover so let’s dive right in!

Dice and Udemy partner to offer targeted online courses for tech job seekers
First up, some cool company news. Dice is a career site for technology and engineering professionals, and this week they launched a curated selection of Udemy courses within their skills center in order to provide personalized recommendations to job seekers. It’s pretty nifty: search for a job skill and get a list of relevant courses available on Udemy.

Why constant learners all embrace the 5-hour rule
This article’s title refers to Benjamin Franklin’s personal routine of devoting an hour every weekday to learning, and it goes on to cite a bunch of other super-successful people who also make learning part of their daily lives.

4 keys to becoming self-motivated
All of us want to increase our productivity, but many of us have trouble finding any extra time in our schedules. But have you noticed, if you’re motivated enough to do something, you always manage to find the time to do it? This author suggests cultivating a sense of purpose, fostering a growth mindset, maximizing your strengths, and identifying the people around you who get you fired up to take action.

How freelancers can keep their skills fresh
Freelance marketplace Upwork is a Udemy partner, and our VP of Content Grégory Boutté contributed this post to their blog. In it, he makes a strong case for why freelancers must keep learning and updating their skills in order to stay competitive and how online courses can fill that need. When you’re done reading Grégory’s post, check out more tips for how to become a successful freelancer from the Harvard Business Review.

This is what your future virtual-reality office will be like
We conclude this week’s roundup with a peek into the (not-too-distant?) future. In a few years, you might be interacting with coworkers while wearing VR goggles and having “hands-on” collaboration with distant colleagues on virtual whiteboards. Decide for yourself whether this sounds like a productivity boon or just a more sophisticated way of filling your calendar with more meetings.

July 15, 2016: Friday news roundup

Hope everyone had a productive week and learned something new! Here’s what people were talking about in the media.

6 ways to make the most of your internship
Yes, we’ve been thinking a lot about interns these days, probably because we’re right in the  middle of our own summer internship program. We really liked the tips offered by this author and feel they apply to anyone in the early stages of their career or even starting a new job. Things like being resourceful, taking on extra work, and having high standards for excellence apply to all of us.

How to revitalize schools with tech
Our own CEO Dennis Yang attended Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech Conference this week and was part of a group of education and technology experts who dug into the opportunities for and challenges of improving schools and learning. This taskforce came up with four priorities for leveraging the power of technology for education, including ensuring high-speed internet access at all public schools and teaching computer science at every level, starting in kindergarten.

For effective brain fitness, do more than play simple games
We shared an article in a recent news roundup that questioned the validity of software that claims to exercise and strengthen its users’ brains. Here’s an article providing better alternatives and cites “novelty and complexity” as mandatory elements for achieving actual brain fitness. Examples include playing board games, learning a foreign language, or picking up a musical instrument.

Solving all the wrong problems
Lots of Udemy students aspire to careers as app developers, but the apps coming out of Silicon Valley have come under fire for being geared to a limited audience of privileged users or just being frivolous and far short of “world-changing.” This columnist calls for hackers, techies, and disruptors to put their considerable talent and intelligence toward solving bigger issues that really would change lives for the better.

A 10-year-old scored a PhD-level fellowship for the sweetest reason
A feel-good story out of France seems like the best way to conclude this week’s roundup. A young girl named Eva submitted her idea for using robots to make people in Paris happy to a  prestigious fellowship in the city. The program’s organizer was impressed with Eva’s passion and boldness and said, “Humility and the willingness to learn in order to go beyond our current limitations are at the heart and soul of innovation.”