Relationships

The Mentor Myth

Nora Ephron

I’ve had a few amazing mentors in my life, but I haven’t actually met any of them…

When I started Cup of Jo in 2007, blogging felt like the Wild West. Since blogging was still new, I didn’t have people in whose footsteps I could follow; my peers and I were just figuring things out as we went. So, to help ground myself, I made a list on my computer’s desktop of people who I could consider mentors from afar, including magazine editor Pilar Guzmán, author Anne Lamott, force of nature Michelle Obama, and neck-hater and all-around genius Nora Ephron.

Whenever I felt lost or confused about next steps, I’d think ‘what would Anne Lamott do?’ or ‘what might Michelle Obama think?’ Sometimes I’d feel disoriented because other bloggers would be forging different paths — taking gorgeous daily outfit photos or doing advanced beauty tutorials — and I wasn’t good at that. Was I falling behind? Was I not succeeding? But I’d remind myself: Nora Ephron just was herself and it worked out. I’ll keep moving forward.

I also take career snippets from other people here and there. For example, in her 2018 beauty uniform, Nora McInerny said, “I want to make things that somebody can point to and say, ‘It felt like that.'” That quote has lived on my desktop ever since. While writing about things like aging and parenting, I’ve reminded myself of her words and they’ve helped me open up.

Overall, it would be amazing to have bimonthly lunches with an older and wiser person who could guide your career, but for those of us who don’t have that, never fear! Secretly pinpoint people you respect and admire, note their career moves and philosophies, and consider yourself mentored.

I remember a great paragraph in Mindy Kaling’s memoir Why Not Me? Her own mentor Greg Daniels advises:

You take your mentoring where you can find it, even if it is not being offered to you. Have you ever used your neighbor’s Wi-Fi when it wasn’t on a password? If you have the opportunity to observe someone at work, you are getting mentoring out of them even if they are unaware or resistant. Make a list of the people you think would make the greatest mentors and try to get close enough to steal their Wi-Fi.

Mindy Kaling and Greg Daniels.

I’m so grateful to the women above for being there for me, even if they didn’t know it.

Thoughts? Do you have an in-real-life mentor? Or mentors from afar? I’d love to hear…

P.S. The best career advice, and 10 lessons I’ve learned in my career.

  1. HeatherL says...

    Yes, I had some great mentors, in the offices of the huge corporation that I worked for in Manhattan for the first ten years of my career. I learned so much! It actually really concerns me when I see people tweeting that there’s no need to go back to the office ever, that there’s no need for my industry to be centralized….I didn’t learn all of this on my own! And I’m not convinced you can make connections/learn so much over zoom meetings. Time will tell, I guess.

  2. Varina says...

    Like so many on here, it seems, I don’t have any formal mentors in the traditional sense – more senior, more experienced, more advanced in their career. However, I have found SO much value in peer mentorship, which has arisen organically as my girlfriends and I get older. There is a small group of women to whom I can turn to ask questions like “what leadership books are you reading?” or “how should I negotiate this offer?” or (a lot of times) “can I do this? It seems too far beyond my scope!” I’m always amazed and grateful for the wisdom – and yes, the affirmations – from these smart, ambitious, thoughtful women.

  3. Jen says...

    I’m a long term reader, and I’d like to echo the sentiment that I’ve often thought of you as a mentor, particularly in motherhood. Thank you for your willingness to share your experiences. It’s clear you’ve had an impact on many of us!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      these comments mean so, so much to me, you have no idea. thank you so much. xx

  4. A says...

    I love this post! I’m sorry if this comes across wrong, but I feel like a lot of women are still trying to find their way as confident, trusted leaders in the workplace. This isn’t the fault of women, but unfortunately a lot of tools and traits that make a good male leader simply don’t correlate directly to a woman and so I feel like it is an extra special find to witness a woman who is comfortable in her skin and has successfully climbed the corporate ladder. So I love the idea of a from far away mentor, the WiFi analogy is brilliant. One book I recommend to tons of people is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Leadership” book that follows the young adult lives of four US presidents, examining traits and circumstances that built them into successful leaders. I was surprised how many practical tips I drew from it in my own working life.

    • T. A. says...

      This very comment proves your point. You should not have to qualify your opinion, it’s a good one so make it confidently!!! Just remove “I’m sorry if this comes across wrong, but…” and you’ll have nailed it. It’s what a male would do!

  5. Charitie says...

    I’ve made a Pinterest board for mine!

    Noam Chomsky: “I was never aware of any other option but to question everything.”

    Katherine Johnson, human computer for NASA, because she fought against the odds socially being African American and career-wise, bringing intelligence and creativity to the field.

    Meryl Streep, whose self expression not only bolsters my self-confidence but inspires creativity for all the different parts of my personality.

    Francis Schaeffer, philosopher who taught me the beautiful web of culture, science and God as opposed to seeing them as battling camps.

    Lisa Randall, theoretical astrophysicist, because of her tenacious zeal for life & science.

  6. Charitie says...

    This is truly a nugget of wisdom. I’ve heard (& agree with) the advice, “be who you are and what you love and you’ll attract the people you really want to be friends with.” But that can honestly prove to be a hard feat if you lack inspiration from people around you (just as a caveat, I do personally believe everyone has potential to inspire you, just not all in the same way). With that said, when you’re not confined to your current location or even time period, the possibilities for inspiration increase substantially! Honestly, I think this is why there seems to be a correlation to increasing age and history appreciation. Everyone I know over the age of 60 just *loves* history and I’ve always wondered why. I think this solves part of the puzzle – they find community and cultivation of character from past historical figures.

  7. Jara says...

    What an incredibly good advice.

    As many have said… You Joanna, have been one great mentor to me, in motherhood, work and life in general. Reading your blog is one of the highlights of my days.
    Thank you!!

  8. Ashley Romero says...

    What a wonderul, helpful, and thoughtful post! I especially enjoyed the “it felt like that” quote. This is really what most are seeking on these blogs I think; this made it a conscious realization on my part.

  9. zara says...

    I find this so comforting, as I’ve often felt a bit disappointed about not having a Real Mentor. It’s a role I have romanticized to the point where I didn’t make space for the type of mentorship you describe here. Thanks for this–I’m going to spend some time thinking about the people (women, especially) who have guided me over the years, even if they never knew it.

  10. Jas says...

    Darling Jo, I consider YOU my mentor from afar, seriously! I’ve followed you for so long and have learned so much from you!! Even my husband knows how important you are to me as I quote you or this blog so often :-) Plus, we are also the same age and we are both aquarians :-).

    I love you, Jo! <3

  11. verushka says...

    As so many women have pointed out, you have completely been that person for me! Thank you for being you – you are a force for kindness, acceptance, love and community and I am so grateful to have found your corner of the internet because what you create here is pure gold. xxx

  12. Alicia says...

    This is a truly lovely, helpful post.

  13. Sarah says...

    I echo 100% every comment that I look to you and your team (and your mom!) for advice and mentorship. This blog is such a special part of my life and has been for a decade!!!

    • Kate says...

      So beautifully said and it echoes my sentiments exactly. ❤️

  14. Molly says...

    I just want you to know that your “mentorship” over the years is so meaningful. From how to raise children to a wonderful show to travel advice to everything else, has been amazing. Thank you for taking the time to write! It’s beautiful.

  15. Agnès says...

    It is so lovely to read all the comments and that so many readers that Cup of Jo has been a mentor to them. This blog is truly inspiring.

  16. Sally says...

    The only mentor I ever really had was a fashion mentor!

    I worked with a lady, only a couple of years older than me, who always looked FABULOUS. Effortlessly put together. Nothing was expensive, but she always looked so good.
    So I copied. I’d note what she was wearing (mostly just colour scheme and style), and the next day I’d use her outfit for inspiration for my own.
    “On Monday she was wearing cream-coloured trousers and a black shirt. So on Tuesday I’ll wear a light-coloured bottom, and a dark top.”

    As far as I know, no-one ever knew, but I felt like I had discovered a great little life hack. And during those 6 months or so that I did it, I never felt so stylish!

  17. Damaris Smyth says...

    Great advice! It is so enriching to collect mentors near and far. I am loving that process. Right now I am getting a lot of mentoring from Brene Brown, Lori Gottlieb, Juli Bauer Roth and Tina Fey all of which I encountered through different mediums :podcasts, NPR, Instagram, and TV. It is an ideal time to be seeking out mentors. Thank you for the content!

  18. Damaris Smyth says...

    It is amazing to me how many mentors far and near I have accumulated over the years. I love this post because it is so true. Find them and get close because you can learn so much! Some of my far mentors right now are Lori Gottlieb, Brene Brown, Tina Fey, and Juli Bauer Roth. They all came to me through different mediums: NPR, Podcast, TV, and Instagram. It’s such a remarkable time to be learning from these individuals. Thank you for sharing!

  19. I really appreciate this post. I lead an initiative about women, work, and calling for a nonprofit and find that younger women often come into networking opportunities thinking, “I’m going to come away from this gathering with a mentor.” You can gain so much wisdom by informally learning from others even if you don’t have an official “mentor.”

    I encourage women of any age to pursue intentional friendships with people in different life stages, with different levels of professional development, etc. The goal is to be mutually beneficial to each other. You may not feel like you have a lot to offer, but curiosity, generosity of spirit, and encouragement go a long way. I’ve gained an amazing tribe of loyal, supportive friends/mentors/mentees this way.

  20. Nicole says...

    This is terrific advice. I worked in an industry I didn’t love and tried to make mentors out of people above me and it back fired. There was a lot of keeping things close to the chest for job security and control. And it was predominantly females that I worked with. Now that I have made a complete career shift and am floating like most other people right now, I look to bloggers (present company included of course :)) and writers I greatly admire for mentorship instead of being intimidated. I even reach out on occasion. Former me would have been too afraid.

  21. Diana says...

    I do this all the time with all the areas of my being that need support. In my own head lives the most perfect mother and group of supportive friends who are always there to provide guidance and unconditional love (even if my real life is peopled with some pretty great people). It makes me sound nuts but it really work wonders….and they don’t ever judge my nuttiness.

  22. Erin G. says...

    Wow, this is wonderful advice! I’ve always really treasured having mentors and have found it much harder to do in my professional life as I’ve aged. One thing that has worked really well for me is to find a mentor when engaging in a new or even not-new hobby. I’ve been metal smithing for the last five years and found the most wonderful mentor in the very first class I took. I’ve also been more serious about gardening this year and found a wonderful mentor for that, too!

  23. Campbell says...

    I love this and have wondered about finding mentors along the way. This is genius, thank you!

  24. rachel says...

    On a related note, my wife is a former CEO of several companies in a particular industry and she and I are both intrigued by how many more younger men than women reach out to her for counsel or advice at a critical juncture in their career. Her preference — rather than ongoing mentoring, which often feels forced to her — is to engage with folks who are at junction in their careers/work, making decisions, considering options, etc.

    Bottom line: make connections, reach out, reach up.

    • Emily Luce says...

      Thank you.

  25. Lisa says...

    I am forever grateful for my first manager, for so many reasons. She hired me as a temp on a one month contract, and from the get go was trying to get me a permanent role or onto a grad programme, giving me excellent advice and simply being wonderful. I don’t know how my career would have panned out without her – my next manager was awful and it made me acutely aware of how important it is to have someone good guiding you.
    I’m currently mentorless, and have a horrific manager – I’ve been signed off sick from work with stress. The instructions she gives are vague and confusing (it’s not me – everyone feels like this), she screams at me at every opportunity and doesn’t give much support. I’m now trying to figure out what to do next. Depending on my next doctor’s appointment, I might have to go back to work and I honestly can’t do it anymore. I’m exploring options on what to do next, and even how to go back to work in this conditions until I find something new.

    • AMK says...

      I’m sorry you are dealing with this. She is abusive. How awful that she is being allowed to treat important people (you. You are important. You are important. Please know that). Sending love!

  26. Rusty says...

    You! Joanna!
    This place and the enormously supportive space and people who belong here!
    This is where I get the best advice, reality checks and balanced views of our world.
    I don’t have the words to express what an enormous contribution you and your team/blog have made and continue to make to my life!
    So. Much. Gratitude!
    Mmmwaaah!!! ?

    • jdp says...

      agreed! my first thought when reading this was…the author of this blog and her fellow writers. not saying they’re my onlies, but right now they provide the right amount of smarts, concern, positivity, good writing, inclusivity, progressiveness, family friendliness, and soul balmness.

      thank you!

  27. Annie says...

    Authentic is a word that gets thrown around much too frequently these days, but the authenticity of your blog, which is so consistently relatable and accessible, is what has kept so many of us coming back for over a decade! I can’t think of any other content I’ve turned to so consistently throughout my early adulthood for guidance, entertainment and a sense of community. Many of the women you’ve featured over the years (and you!) have served as mentor-esque inspiration in my life when I haven’t had real life teachers and friends available to fill the role. I’m so thankful for the internet, and especially for Cup of Jo and its community!

  28. Tokyojeans says...

    100%! Back when I first start my career in TV news I was terrified to anchor my first newscast. The senior anchor at our station was a woman who never lost her cool, even when all chaos was breaking out behind the scenes. For the first little while I would pretend to be her – not copying her style, just acting as cool and as calm as she looked. And what do you know – eventually I didn’t need to fake it. She never knew she was my secret mentor.

  29. Christina says...

    I run a mentorship group for women in the same profession as me. We meet monthly. Pre-covid, it was over wine and dinner, then for a while it was Zoom, and now it’s socially distanced in a park (bring your own chairs!). We have all ages and career stages, and it has meant much to me and been so valuable and affirming. I just sent this article to the other woman who runs it with me and suggested it as our next topic: “Who are your mentors from afar and why?” Thanks, Joanna!

  30. Meg says...

    Thank you so much for this. It feels like a reminder, even though it’s completely fresh advice to me. You are very good at your job. Thank you for all of the work that you do.

  31. All my mentors have been from afar and this post resonates so well with how I have forged my way through my blogging career. I’m happy I read this.

  32. Claire says...

    Really interesting ideas here- thank you for writing this.
    This reminds me of something I forgotten about Napoleon Hill – that he had what he called an invisible council, composed of people he most admired (Emerson, Darwin, and Lincoln were some of them) and he would hold imaginary meetings with them every night and ask for their input. He believed (and I do too) that he could tap into the same creativity and inspiration that had influenced them in their lives. And I really needed to remember this idea right now, so thanks again.

  33. sp says...

    wow, i love this. thanks for letting us steal your wifi, Joanna!

  34. Heidi says...

    My friend and I have a list of women we refer to as our “Internal Advisory Board” filled with people like Oprah, Ina Garten and of course Nora Ephron is on that list. We do not know them personally, obviously. But I like to think of them when I’m faced with a hard decision or need help with relationships, commitments, etc. People often look for spiritual guidance and there is great value in that… but sometimes you just want to take into consideration the idea of what one of your fictional mentors would do in a personal crisis.

    • Candace says...

      Love this. “Internal Advisory Board”. Brilliant.

    • AR says...

      OMG my mom has this. She calls it her board of directors. I know it includes Oprah but not sure on the rest.

    • Meghan says...

      I’m stealing this concept!! I’ve been trying to understand why the biggest thing getting me through this time right now is loading up a YouTube playlist with interviews with Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand (a country I do not live in and have never visited, although I hope to someday!) to watch on my lunch breaks. Since I found out I was pregnant a month into quarantine and am regularly freaking out about how to stay optimistic and how to pull it off as a first-time mom who wants to keep working at a job I love and fought hard to get, I’ve been having regular conversations with her in my head as I figure she would have some wisdom to share on that!

  35. celeste says...

    Love this, and love your formula for the blog! My mentor is my late mother. I know her shortcomings, so I don’t put her on a pedestal, but I wish she was here so I could ask, “How exactly did you pull yourself out of a divorce to get a master’s in education with a young child and still balance motherhood while impacting the community?”

    • Hala says...

      I really love that. I remember reading that Mindy Kaling got a pad and pen, then sat with her mother in palliative care and asked her to share as much advice as possible. I don’t recall what came next but that first part stayed with me. It can be helpful to read what Michelle Obama or Nora Ephron have to say, but nothing beats that warm feeling I get when I think of my mother and what she would have said or done.

  36. NH observer says...

    What a fabulous idea — mentors from afar. I think it’s a wonderful way to personalize sources of inspiration and to underscore shared humanity (what I also call “Even your icon puts underwear on one leg at a time”). As a woman of color, I have been incredibly fortunate to have mentors across the race/gender spectrum, from the white male judge for whom I was a clerk, to the African-American female attorney who I always will regard as having launched my career by endorsing my work to our supervisors and giving me excellent advice that I continue to use today. I think a lot of this is just sheer luck. I also have no shame about being a magpie — if I see someone doing something well at any level, you better believe I’m going to ask them how they figured it out and start doing it myself. In other words, seek mentorship even from people who are at different points in the lives and careers. We are all works in progress!

  37. Janey says...

    Joanna YOU are my mentor! I often think of your compassion, kindness, enthusiasm and the way you are your boys biggest fan. I try to incorporate that into my life as much as I can. I truly think you have made me a better person. Thank you!

    • Meghan says...

      Agreed! I have often thought that Joanna is like a big sister from afar. Your voice and essence, Jo, means a lot to me.

    • SP says...

      me too!

    • Ker says...

      Me three!

  38. Tara says...

    Hands down its AOC. Whenever I feel like I’m pushing too hard it being “too feminist,” I think about how she is forging a new path for women and women of color and she is boldly herself. I love her so much!

    • Annie says...

      YES. AOC is such a guiding light these days. I am so with you!

    • Ker says...

      Oh my goodness — AOC! So true. She is just amazing.

  39. I did a workshop once that had a crazy exercise about finding a guiding light for your career. It sounded absolutely insanely woo-woo, but the leader promised it would work and provide insight, and that your person would just appear. I followed the exercises reluctantly, and sure enough, a vision presented itself. And it was Ina Garten! I was shocked, I’m a novelist who writes about dark secrets and cynical families with a dose of humor, and I can barely cook. But it made sense on another level. An older woman, a maternal figure like I’d never had, being steady and calm, with a stellar work ethic, being TOTALLY HERSELF. Those aspects of Ina come back to me every now and again, like a secret mentor who seems nothing like me in the wrong field . . . I steal her wi-fi by being myself and carrying on and staying calm when others are loud.

    • What was the exercise?!

    • suki says...

      Yes do please share this!

  40. Kate says...

    On the advice of a friend I recently signed up for career coaching. Does it still count as mentoring if you pay them? ?

    When Joanna said to find people you respect and admire, that reminded me of Tom Ford’s relationship advice (yes, that Tom Ford). He said you may not always like the person you’re with in every moment or every day but as long as they are someone you respect and admire that’s the most important thing.

    • Sophie says...

      Yes! Paying people for their hard-earned wisdom and emotional labor is ethical. We exchange all kinds of tokens of validation with people who are important to us, and it’s ok if that’s money if you’ve got it. Sometimes when paying someone for something personal feels weird, it helps me to think of it as a “choose your own adventure” gift, because you can use money to take care of yourself and your community however way you wish. It doesn’t cheapen the connection inherently, that’s the patriarchy talking!

  41. Kels says...

    I felt such relief reading this. There is a lot of pressure (especially for women in business) to find your “mentor”. It is a frequent topic of discussion. My company even offered a formal mentorship program which I participated in. My mentor was terrible! We didn’t click at all and as I got to know her, she wasn’t someone I admired career-wise or even person-wise. I’ve been hesitant to enter into any sort of structured mentorship because of that experience. This idea, mentorship from afar, is much more my speed.

  42. Joana says...

    This is so good! I have two: one is the scary Gollum from Lord of the Rings, he’s excellent in reminding me of everything that can go wrong when all seems peaceful. The other one is Miss Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter…) who likes to comment on my appearance. I am trying to be compassionate towards them now :)

    • Fiona says...

      I love this! I saw that an artist had drawn beautiful (if somewhat scary) “monsters” for all sorts of mental health issues once, and was inspired to sit and think about what my personal combination of “monsters” would look like, act like, sound like. I’ve named him Malcolm and forgive him when things go wrong and try to set him up to succeed.

  43. Raffaela says...

    This post is going to remain within me for a long long time.. Your blog, its authenticity, its freshness and your empathy, are the reasons I read your posts everyday since 2009! You are definitely my long-distance mentor. Thank you

    • Jenn says...

      Raffaela, I felt the same way reading this post. Joanna, I’ve been stealing your WIFI for more than a decade now. Thank you.

    • Fabiana says...

      Same here! Thank you Joanna.

  44. Neely says...

    Posts like these are why I love Cup of Jo and have been reading since 2011. ❤️

    • Rosalie says...

      She is amazing.

  45. Lorelei says...

    My [male] boss recently set me up with a female mentor at work. It was a great idea because this woman is a top executive at our company, and also the mom of two young kids – and I needed that perspective being an exhausted working mom myself. I’ve only met with her twice, but our conversations are very motivating and inspiring. She gives great advice but what I also love is the accountability. I find myself coming to our meetings super prepared, and also talking myself into solutions to my own queries. Her role is often just to listen and to help me get to my own conclusions, find my own clarity. It’s a confidence builder just knowing these answers are coming from me.

    • Sarah says...

      That is a great idea, mentorship from afar.

      At my work, they have set up mentorship programs for women which I have participated in, but I really struggle with the way male leaders are kept out of reach of the females who are looking to further their career opportunities, especially when 85-90% of the executives are male. Has anyone else experienced this and how have you overcome it?

      It is an added difficulty when informal mentorship can result in blurred boundaries. I was invited for a drink with a VP and heavily debated whether to go, even though I know that VP goes for a drink with male colleagues regularly. In the end I chose not to, as I heard he had a “habit” of hitting on younger women from a friend in HR.

      Similarly, my own boss would reach out in the evenings to talk about his problems with his brother. I told the guy I was seeing about it and he stated that it wouldn’t happen to him because “his boss is male”. I replied, “mine too!”

      I suppose this comments has become my challenges with mentorship, which really, can be salved by choosing your own mentors and bypassing the sexist system that is still very prevalent in the corporate world (and beyond). There are an increasing number of public leaders, who are female, that inspire me and show the world that leadership can come in many forms.

      Thank you for letting me vent and share my experiences.

  46. Ari says...

    I love this! I don’t have a formal mentor but there are so many women who I admire and hang on to their every words. Michelle Obama’s “I used to feel intimidated going into these big meetings and then I realized half of these men aren’t very smart”. Diane Von Faustenburg for her vision and being effortlessly chic. The list goes on and on. I thought I was the only one missing out on this unicorn mentor that I meet up with regularly. This is why I echo what so many others have said here. I admire you for creating this space and sharing what so many of us can relate to.

  47. Katie says...

    Joanna, you have absolutely been one of these mentors for me. I’ve been reading you for many, many years, and I didn’t find my mentors until a few years ago. You’ve been a constant in my life, so thank you for being a gentle and wise voice – yet one filled with the same earnest and hopeful feelings as me. I’ve turned to you many times over the years.

  48. K says...

    oh my gosh, to echo other comments you are one of my virtual mentors, Cup of Jo! i also constantly reference articles on here in conversation ( i actually wrote a list of my favorite ones in my notes app and they range from the soul-stirring ones to silly ones) and whenever i want to respond in anger, you push me to aim for graciousness and understanding while staying true to my point of view. you are a perfect human! sincere and down for a laugh.

    my other mentors would be Dale Carnegie and Brene Brown and this youtuber That’s Chic (Rachel Nguyen). I love how Rachel’s so perfectly imperfect– artful, messy, tired, radiant, vulnerable, everything she does has a thread of intention and confidence running through it.

    • Lauren says...

      I would love to see this list! Pretty please??

  49. Elizabeth says...

    I will echo what so many have shared about Joanna being a mentor to me – Joanna, your endless grace, honesty, optimism, and curiosity bring SO much joy to my life – and I aspire to see the world the way you see it (and to make it brighter the way that you do!). I told you this when I met you in person at the Cup of Jo / Clare V. party in San Francisco…while my sister and I both teared up from excitement at meeting you :) …that we admire you for so many reasons, but it has been your funny, heart-wrenching, beautiful, honest stories of marriage and motherhood that have made me SO excited for that future phase of my life.

    Another (in person) mentor was the woman who introduced me to this blog about 6 years ago – Claire. She exudes much of the same grace, honesty, bravery, and wit as Joanna, and from the moment I met her, I knew I wanted to stay close to her sunlight. Claire forged an incredible career path (now an executive leader at one of the top education non-profits in the country), is deeply thoughtful and incredibly wise – not to mention gorgeous, classy, and effortlessly cool. She showed me what it meant to ACTUALLY work hard, to care about the work that you do, and to lift up others along the way. She has been there for me at every twist and turn of my career (before, during, and after she was my manager). And I am endlessly grateful for her! I hope to be someone else’s Claire one day :)

    • gaya3 says...

      Hi Elizabeth!
      Could you please share some tips of Claire with us? (in the context of “actually work hard and to care about the work that you do”)
      Thank you in advance! xoxo

  50. C says...

    What great comments. I hope what you take away from this is that a lot of us here haven’t just found mentors in people, but in spaces—specifically the one you’ve built here. The number of times I’ve put my dry shampoo in at night, think of the trick to remember which way a key unlocks, or blurt out I love you in an argument with my partner—well, it’d be hard to say I haven’t been mentored in this space the past 12 years.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, tears!

  51. Charlie says...

    YOU are my mentor, Joanna! My partner knows all about you and how you would be one of my dinner party guests (you know, that dream dinner you invent in your head filled with lots of wine, candlight, and all of the people you admire most). We met briefly in Hayes Valley a year or two ago and I was borderline speechless. You are an incredible woman, wife, mother, mentor, friend, sister, daughter and I love you SO much. Thank you for being the only consistent part of my day these past 10(ish) years!

    • Jackie says...

      I’ve listed Joanna as my ultimate dinner party guest too!! Sounds like you’d be invited too Charlie!

      Michelle Obama was also on the list, so I’m glad you’ve got an in Joanna.

      Love this space very much.

  52. Caitlin says...

    As others have said, you truly are a guidepost and long distance mentor to me. You’ve written so many things where I’ve thought “it felt like that.” And there are *so* many things I do regularly, particularly related to parenting, that I directly took from this space. You are Nora Ephron to me! WWJ(oanna)D? Truly.

    • Jennifer Love says...

      Ditto! Could not have expressed it better! Your poetic voice and sanguine advice has guided myself and so many of my friendships! We giggle as we hike, acting as if you are our best friend! And MENTOR! Thank you from the deepest hearts out here in the Wild West! You calm us and keep us centered!

  53. Rosie says...

    I relate to this so much. I’ve never really had a mentor who gave me what I needed when I needed it, but there are so many people who I respect and look to for guidance just by following their careers and reading about them and watching interviews. I love memoirs for that reason.

  54. Kristin says...

    While I have had several professors and women I have worked with who I have admired, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a “mentor” in my professional life. But for a long time, I have thought of Catherine Newman as my parenting mentor. I have loved her memoirs about raising kids for years – long before I was partnered or had a child. But her beautiful writing and the descriptions of the ups and downs of parenting have given my own feelings and thoughts about motherhood such clarity. I think about her writing multiple times everyday, and find it hilarious, wise, and heartwarming.

  55. Wendy says...

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  56. Aly says...

    I just love this.

  57. CMG says...

    Can a mentor be younger than you? Yes! Joanna, I am probably 20 years older than you, yet I think of you as a mentor.
    I admire your grace, thoughtfulness and kindness and I respect your opinion on so many topics. Thank you for being there for your readers.

  58. Rachel says...

    Love this! Have been reading books about/by strong women as a way to Inspire me while I reignite my career after staying home with my kids for 9 years. I am ready!

  59. Jamie says...

    I once heard this concept referred to as a ‘thought team’ and it resonated with me. Now I have my parenting thought team, my assertive bold woman thought team, etc. I call on them in my head depending on the situation. Even fictional characters can be part of a thought team – for example, Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights is a long time member of my thought team!

    • Caitlin says...

      L-O-V-E this

    • Isabella says...

      Yes! Bjork, MFK Fisher, and Colette have been gentle guides in my life for decades, and Hannah Gadsby recently joined the imaginary dinner party, to much rejoicing.

    • Claire says...

      This “thought team” sounds cool.

  60. NK says...

    Daily reader, sporadic commenter here. This may be my favorite post ever. For years I’ve pined for a mentor/set of mentors to help guide me and my career. I love this advice and will take it to heart. Thank you!

  61. Rebecca says...

    Joanna, I echo all of the comments regarding you as a mentor. Just today, I had to write a semi-awkward work email and thought, “How would Joanna phrase this?”

    I have been trying to understand (and emulate!) what exactly it is that makes all of us here feel so welcomed, so inspired, and non-judged. While I haven’t figured it out exactly, I know it is in part because you emanate so much sincerity, understanding, and kindness. So, thank you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, thank you so much. That means so much to me.

    • Mollie says...

      And even when someone gives critical feedback in the comments, Joanna is always gracious, kind and empathetic. She always says thank you for the feedback, and if she has additional information the commenter did not consider, she shares it assertively. You are such a role model for me, Joanna! ❤️

  62. Jennie says...

    Hi COJ Readers! I am someone who has formally and informally mentored people over the years and at times I have watched women get REALLY hung up on finding a mentor. My advice is, don’t overthink it! It’s like dating really, and you can start small. Basically – I divide it into 2 camps. If you have a specific situation you are mulling over (e.g. you have plateaued, you can’t decide how to shape a significant program you are working on, etc. ) reach out to who you think may have an answer and just ask if they would be willing to give you some perspective on your situation. 99% of the time they will say yes. What actually just happened is that you got your “first date.” If it clicks, then follow up with them again on something else in a few weeks. If it continues to work, you can tell them that you really think of them as a mentor and ask if you be open to setting up a standing meeting.

    Now if you do not have something specific, think of someone who’s career you admire, reach out and explain that you are thinking about your next steps and that you have admired how they have navigated their career, so would they be willing to chat about how they carved their path? Just make sure you really do your homework for this one – be ready with specific questions. Then, if it clicks you are hopefully taking directions and making choices based on what they have told you – even if indirectly. That gives you an opportunity to follow up with them, talk about what you got and where you are hoping to go! In short, if you are looking for a mentor, date them before you try to get married.

    • Eva says...

      This is helpful, Jennie. Thank you! Do you have any advice for someone whose desire for mentorship may straddle career/life? I am reflecting a lot on my next career steps—but it’s in relation to having become a parent last year, and other life priorities and ambitions. I’m in real soul-searching mode, haha. Is that a tall order?

    • Jennie says...

      Eva I think the best mentoring relationships DO straddle work and life, it just may take awhile to get there. Congratulations on becoming a new parent; it is a big and exciting step. Seek out mentors who are also parents, but be ready to need to knock on a few doors. Case in point, I remember when I was working with someone and she could afford multiple nannies and other services I could not. So our situations and options were not exactly apples to apples!

  63. Erin says...

    It is nice to read your writing again! I feel as if it has been a while. I wonder, as you have gotten older, if things have become too intensely private for you to write as personally as you did before. I think I could relate to that. Before my worries and deep thoughts mostly centred around me: my work, my love life, my body, my leisure. Now they are centred on my family – it has more gravity. Also, when you fail at your own life, you can still be charming. If you fail at being a mom, there is only shame. For me, of course, I am sure many people have a much better attitude toward things!

  64. Kathryn says...

    Wow, this post really made me feel better. I work in a male-dominated profession, and though I have gained the respect of the men I work for (and many who work for me), it has always been apparent that older male lawyers effortlessly take young male lawyers under their wing to mentor them while maintaining a safe distance from even the brightest female colleagues. When I look at those ‘above’ me in my profession, there are very few women and even fewer who are happy and someone I’d want to be like; those few seem too inundated with mentee requests for me to impose myself. Despite my career success, I’ve questioned whether I will continue to be able to succeed without mentors, or whether there’s something wrong with me that some career-fairy-godmother hasn’t reached out and offered her services. But I also recognize that between a demanding work life and raising young kids, I don’t have bandwidth to cultivate and maintain more relationships right now. I try to spend any extra time I do have mentoring others to hold the door open for other women lawyers. Thanks for sharing that someone as groundbreaking and successful as you has made it without the mythical mentor figure.

    Joanna, I also want to let you know what an amazing mentor you’ve been to me as I learned how to be a mother. I was the first of my friends to have kids, and I knew I wanted to be a very different mother than mine was. Your posts on motherhood made those baby years so much less lonely. You have had profound impact on me, and I’m sure so many readers. Thank you for being my mentor.

  65. Patricia says...

    My former boss Carol was a great mentor to me. She was the Headmaster of the school where I was the elementary school principal, but she was also a Life Coach. She liked to look at things through the lens of “what do you value?” She was not easily ruffled and she was great at stepping back and looking at the big picture. One time, a senior boy had done something against school policy and people were pushing for him to be expelled. She argued that he was a good kid who had done something foolish and that expelling him could change his whole life track by affecting his college acceptance. I remember her asking, “Wouldn’t you want someone to give you the benefit of the doubt?” to my colleagues and being so impressed by her humility in not having to show him who was boss. Her lack of ego is something I try to emulate.

  66. Justine says...

    It’s so funny to read this post today. I’m 38 and managing a big national team, while parenting my two kids. The kids have been out of daycare since mid-March. It’s been almost 100 working days of concurrent work and childcare. Some days I can barely keep it together (the kids are young: 4 and 2). After they go to sleep, on those nights I don’t have the energy to work, I’ll stream an episode of 30 Rock. I recently started from the beginning and it brings me SO MUCH JOY. After googling it, I realized that Tina Fey would have been the same age I am now when 30 Rock launched. When I think about how she created, wrote and starred in something so excellent at my age, I feel motivated to go on and to keep a sense of humour about all the madness. Last night I thought: when I put together my home office, I’m going to hang a picture of Tina above the desk. I guess that was my way of acknowledging her mentorship.

  67. Kristen says...

    My son has gotten really interested in fainting, especially if the fainting is a response to meeting someone famous, Our dinner conversations have essentially become: “Mom, would you faint if you met Michelle Obama? What about Lizzo? What about Paul McCartney?” It’s pretty funny to see who he comes up with, but has actually made me consciously choose to talk to my kids about the people I admire and why. (And now I often find myself seeing a picture online or hearing an interview and wondering, would I faint??)

  68. Chloe says...

    this post is the epitome of why your blog has remained while so many others have faltered. thank you for sharing your insights.

  69. Nicole says...

    My mother has always been a mentor of mine, although I doubt she thinks of herself that way. She knows exactly what she needs to be happy, and has a level of patience that amazes me now that I have children of my own. As a stressed college student, when I didn’t know how to study for a particularly exam, I could just think, “what would mom do?” Plus, having her unconditional support has helped more than I can say….

    • Nicole says...

      Typos, sigh–“particularly challenging”!

    • E says...

      Aww, how lucky, Nicole! My mother is someone I need to actively avoid in times of stress and I often worry about emulating her in various ways. However, I’ve collected a number of “other mothers” over the years–our ‘back door’ neighbor who always had an open door and walked her dog with me (and my dog) every day for years; my thesis advisor in college who shared a remarkable physical resemblance (and profession) with my mother but was a completely different person; a local artist/farmer who took me under her wing and taught me how to butcher turkeys; someone I used to work for; currently, another neighbor letting me garden her yard. These women have been beacons of kindness, acceptance, and love in a way that my mother has never been to me. I feel like my mom has actually been this person for many of her students though, which is hard to watch, but oh well. I feel lucky to have so many ‘other mothers.’ Not career mentors, for the most part, but mentors on how to live and how to be towards other people.

  70. Erin says...

    I’ve always considered you to be one of my mentors from afar! I started reading your blog when I was a freshman in college living away from home for the first time (10 years ago!) and it’s been a part of my life ever since! It feels like such a lovely community and somehow always feels relevant to my life. So thank you for being a mentor without even knowing it! :)

    • M says...

      Came here to say the same thing! Joanna you have been mentoring me for over a decade! Thank you! ???

    • Erin says...

      Me too! I started following the blog not too long before the “Breastfeeding Toby around town” post…I had my first baby just a few months before. I met you Joanna at that French shop in NYC and I was totally star struck. So funny! I was meeting my long time friend and mentor, and you were just meeting a stranger (and her chatty husband).

    • I agree! Joanna is a trail blazer :)

  71. K says...

    I’ve been lucky enough to have two men as really wonderful mentors in the past few years — my boss (professional/career mentorship) and a writing professor (writing/hobby mentorship). Of course, I do wish I had more female mentors. There’s a shared experience there that would be helpful. I do have the memories of my grandmother though–she was a wonderful mentor for a little girl (she wrote stories and got them published in local magazines, she built her own house, she got divorced and raised children on her own, she took up painting and won contests, she started a business selling iris bulbs in her 80s). Writing this now, I realize how lucky I am…I have had some really wonderful mentors and it’s nice to be reminded of it!

  72. Identifying the “reverse mentor” living in your brain is equally beneficial. I named mine Wilfred. He’s a British insurance agent and the voice of anxiety and fear who often gets way too much attention. When I’m scared to make a decision or move forward on a new project, I tell myself, “Oh! Wilfred is talking you out of something again! That scaredy cat.” I roll my eyes at him an proceed. :)

    p.s. I met Wilfred through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Julia’s Wilfred is named Nigel.

    • Vero says...

      Oh man please make his comment of the week! I have a Wilfred too.

    • Kristin says...

      Haha, oh my gosh, I do this, too. Mine is named Allen ?

    • Kelly H says...

      Such great advice!

    • Morgan says...

      Loved this

    • Joana says...

      This is so good! I have two: one is the scary Gollum from Lord of the Rings, he’s excellent in reminding me of everything that can go wrong when all seems peaceful. The other one is Miss Dolores Umbridge (Harry Potter…) who likes to comment on my appearance. I am trying to be compassionate towards them now :)

  73. Shady says...

    My mentor through graduate school is everything I hope future-me will be. She demands respect in a way I’ve never seen before, and in our field (biomedical science research), she is like no other. I was both in awe and terrified of her, as a PhD student in her research lab, and now that I hold a similar position to her back then, I am constantly asking myself ‘what would Karen do’. She is brilliant, no nonsense, get-it-done-now-and-do-it-right, but with a kind, empathetic nature that is not easy to see but I’ve been lucky to peel some layers back over the years. I am forever grateful to have learned from her, in my graduate career, but most importantly, by simply being in her presence and observing how she carries herself in a way that exemplifies strength, resilience, and persistence. She holds her own in a room, and leaves no question as to her value in that space. She will forever and always be the woman I look up to most.

  74. Ashley says...

    My mentors from afar are Clare Mazur and Erica Cerulo.

    • Claire Mazur says...

      ? Wow what an honor! Thank you. ♥️

    • Ashley says...

      OMG CLAIRE I AM MORTIFIED THAT I MISSPELLED YOUR NAME.

  75. Erin says...

    A celebrity stranger whose example you admire is not a mentor; that’s a role model. Role models are great, and we all need them. But they’re no substitute for having real humans in your life who listen to your challenges and provide you with targeted feedback, which is what a mentor can do.

    And I love Mindy Kaling, but she’s selling herself (and her audience) short with her steal-the-wifi advice. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to make a close study of the pros. But for goodness sake, ASK people if you want mentorship from them. Ask lots of people if you need to; some people are busy and might not respond. You don’t have to say “Will you be my mentor now and forevermore?” — long-term mentorship relationships start small and evolve over time. For someone you don’t know well or regularly work with, the first appraoch could be “I’m trying to learn to do x or y thing that you seem good at. Can I buy you a cup of coffee and chat with you about how you got to the spot you’re in now?” For a coworker you interact with more often, it could be “I ran into xyz problem and I think the solution might be abc, but I’m not sure. What’s your take?”

    ASK ASK ASK. Do it! Go out and get the support you need from other real-life humans who can give you helpful feedback. Don’t sell yourself short; you deserve good mentorship.

    • Miranda says...

      100% agree with this. I think of Jada Pinkett Smith and Michelle Obama as my role models. But it has made a WORLD of difference working with an accountability partner (kind of like a mentor who holds me to my goals and provides advice when I need it). We meet every 2 weeks and talk for 2 hours on Zoom.

      There is no substitute for these kinds of conversations, and while I applaud all the women here who “admire from afar” and enjoyed this article, I’m so glad the previous commenter made note of the importance and critical impact created by a mentor.

      Yes, you can get by without a “real” mentor. And YES, it’s so transformative when you have a “real” one.

    • Eva says...

      Appreciate the clarity you’ve added here, Erin. It helps me articulate the ambivalence I feel toward this idea of, what sort of feels like, “figure it out for yourself.” As someone who’s never had a real mentor (except one, briefly, in grad school), and always envied the idea of this kind of relationship, it’s the engagement, the dialogue, the supportive inquiry, experience, and perspective that an individual provides to another’s journey that makes them a mentor—and that I crave.

      What holds me back from identifying a possible mentor is what it would be for—I know I’m seeking career, life, family advice, and a traditional mentor relationship seems to hinge on having a specific goal in mind. I think I keep getting stuck at figuring out what that goal is. Is there such thing as a “figuring it all out” mentor? ;)

    • Claire says...

      I would add some caveats to this, based on my experience looking for a mentor in real life, and would encourage a more refined approach than just asking someone for mentorship. Vet carefully. The search for a mentor benefits from deliberate intention and thoughtfulness. The fact that someone appears to have some degree of success does not mean they will be a good partner for you to learn from, or that they will be committed to you and your best interest. The role of mentor has become collateral, a way to market oneself, and I have found people are very eager to add “mentor” to their resume and social media profile, but often are indifferent to what being a mentor means in the way of follow thorugh, support, and feedback, aside from some off the cuff advice that they have culled from mainstream internet dialogue (ie: throwaway advice like “follow your bliss” or “lean in” or “be sure to network” or maybe an offer to “look over your resume”, with little constructive feedback to offer). Think seriously about what you want from a mentor, just as you would think about any relationship, and carefully think about who you are inviting into this role. Pay attention to how the potential mentor interacts with others in a professional setting, how they treat their colleagues, and how they manage their time/ work/ business. Often the fact that someone looks successful (or just super busy) can be misleading about what kind of a person they are. Success is not always indicative of character or wisdom.

  76. Ashley says...

    In reading this post, I realize that this is exactly what I’ve been doing the past few months: looking for mentors. All I can seem to read lately are biographies and memoirs by women…Anna Quindlen, Ruth Reichl, Julie Andrews, Claire Tomalin, Vivian Gornick, and…Nora Ephron! Even women like Mary, Queen of Scots and Jill Lepore’s wonderful “Book of Ages” about Jane Franklin. Ten years into my teaching career, I feel like I’ve stalled a little bit but I don’t know what my next move should be nor do I feel like I have the bravery to take it. With each new life I dive into I feel like I get a little closer to myself.

  77. Hilary says...

    I am continually shocked at how professionally generous my world is. I work in the education/non-profit/government space, so that may have something to do with it. But I feel like I’m surrounded by mentors – people who had coffee with me once, but their words stay with me, people I’ve known for a decade but don’t see very often who made a huge impact, and people I see every day who make me better at what I do. Just today, someone I admire noticed that I was interested in learning more about his field, and is now planning to invite me to all of his important upcoming meetings on the topic. Maybe I’m just very lucky, or maybe the world is what you make of it. I’ll take it either way!

  78. Lucia C says...

    I’ve been assigned a mentor that I speak to weekly since I started coding bootcamp– and honestly, he’s great. The most important thing he asks me on a regular basis is “but are you having fun?”
    And that’s more important in a career than people realize.

  79. Shelley says...

    Thank you for this great idea and for explaining how you actually use it.

  80. This is so lovely! I’m a therapist working with adults who experienced childhood trauma. One thing that seems correlated with the resilience of my clients is their ability to imagine bigger things for themselves. Even if they didn’t *see* what was possible around them, they were able to push through moments of doubt and look for a different path. What a wonderful notion that we can borrow mentors from our everyday lives and use their blueprints to inspire our own toward new things.

    • Olivia says...

      Of course I have professional mentors, but one of my biggest life coaches has actually been my husband, haha. He’s the yin to my yang and takes absolutely no shit from anyone. Excellent negotiator, would never let someone put him down.

      I struggled with this SO much in my first job. Long, awful story short, I was working for a total creep in a private practice in my first job as a PA and was woefully mistreated and underpaid. I didn’t even have a retirement, even though I later saw a sign on the wall that said I was entitled to one. Anyway, one day I was literally crying over my inability to stand up to this guy and renegotiate my salary. My husband, exasperated from giving me advice I wasn’t taking, finally said “he’s laughing at you, you know. You’re literally working like his slave, for free.” It was true! The guy was bragging about making half a million dollars when I wasn’t even being given 40 hours of work.

      It sparked an anger in me I never forgot. (My husband is lovely and wonderful. He was right to say what he said. It wasn’t mean, it was the truth). I now have harnessed the anger, have a bit of a mantra that “I don’t work for free,” never allow anyone to disrespect me, and try to pass on the same wisdom to my friends.

  81. elizabeth says...

    I love this post and it fits perfectly into a question that my therapist asked me today. She asked, “who were and are the nurturing, protective, and wise people in your life?” She told me they didn’t have to be people that I know in real life and your post today is helping me expand how I answer her question. Thank you for showing me that it’s okay to find pillars of strength outside my small circle of friends ,family, and colleagues.

    • I love that question. Thanks for sharing<3

  82. Wow. This was the blog post I never knew I needed. I’m 34 years old, making my way in the film/arts world in a meandering fashion, since moving to NYC on my own just shy of 19. I feel like I have been on a years long quest for a mentor. I’ve wished for her in my dreams. It’s felt like a crucial component to my life and career that I’m perpetually missing. But this perspective feels suddenly groundbreaking. Aren’t we all just a signal away from one another’s wifi? Connected in a web of energy, sending our little signals out for others to tap into: these are my ways, my values, my intentions. So, yes! This is how I will move forward, knowing my mentors have been here to advise and guide me all along.

  83. Lindsay says...

    Joanna, YOU are a mentor to many of us! You are our Nora! I’ve often thought the same thing about you when I’ve wondered if being myself was enough – in my career, my love life, my friendships – if it’s works for Joanna it’ll work for me :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh this made my whole day/week/year!

  84. Alanna says...

    Nora Ephron is 100% my mentor.

    I keep a photo of her – FRAMED – on my desk. Whenever I’m thinking about bailing on a project or doubting my ability to do a good job, I look at the picture and think BE LIKE NORA.

    Then I get it done!

    The intention is to make her proud but I always make myself proud, too, in the end.

  85. Lynn-Holly Wielenga says...

    Ah this is lovely! I have had many mentors over the course of my life, some in the traditional sense, some not. And I would actually count you, Joanna, as well as the Cup of Jo community as a whole, among them. When I first found out I was pregnant (about a year and a half ago. My son is 9 months old now) this blog was the first place I looked. I searched posts on parenting, on working mothers, on pregnancy, raising children in New York… everything! In one of the most emotionally and mentally overwhelming times of my life, I found comfort. Here, in this space you created, I found comfort, advice, reassurance, and several women saying, “Here. Let me help you find a way forward. This is how I did it, and this is how you can do it.” So, thank you for providing this space, and thank you for your (perhaps unintentional) mentorship.

  86. Sophia F. says...

    This is why I read Cup of Jo! I don’t really have positive parenting or relationship examples in my life to look to for mentorship, and while my peers and friends are wonderful, we are all in the thick of things together. I have gotten so much fantastic knowledge and reassurance from both the posts and fellow commenters here.

    Before COVID put all my life plans on hold, I was looking for mentorship/someone who can coach me through how to reenter the work force basically from scratch after eight years away (two kids and multiple interstate moves in the interim, plus pre-SAHM me had a post-recession job in something I loathed). I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping to pivot or otherwise reinvent their life these days so… if you want to write a post about returning to the workforce and virtually mentor me and others, it would be stellar!

    • Lindsey says...

      I’m with you! Big life changes looming and considering rejoining the work force after ten years. I’m TERRIFIED. Sending good vibes your way!

  87. Sara says...

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I’ve always felt left out for not having a mentor who took me underwing and showed me the ropes but I’ve been collecting my own assortment of mentors from afar for as long as I can remember. Glad to know I’m not alone in this practice :)

  88. My kids and husband are used to joke on me because they know One person i admire and respect is Robert de Niro. Since years, i am a fan of him as a man, as an actor, fan of his interviews… My dream is to meet him one day. ..
    Sophie from France

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so awesome, Sophie!

  89. Lillie Boss says...

    This one’s an easy one…CoJ! I look forward to checking in on this blog every day, it feels like a quick watercooler break with a close friend. I’ve come here for years for advice and community. I love the thoughtful content and rounded life tips. I’ve never met anyone here – but when I am going through a life change I often search the archives and think – didn’t CoJ have a blog about that?

    • Rachel says...

      Second this! It’s a running joke in our household that any time I reference an “article” I read it’s always. COJ post. ♥️

  90. Hali says...

    YES! There’s this blogger in Brooklyn who i’ve been following since I read her posts from the top bunk in my dorm room in 2012. She writes about style (over fashion), reading for joy (over prestige), varied social justice issues with diligence, nuance, and actionable directions, traveling (but not like “influencer” travel just like, normal people travel,) womanhood and friendship, existential dread and anxiety, motherhood in a non-mommy way, she shares theeee best home tours, fills my life with small delights like the observance of tomato season and the occasional life-changing hosting tip, and over the course of the last decade has added an editorial team to her blog of writers who i consider perfect archetypes of moms and friends I want in my daily life. In one of the essays this blogger posted, I was able to shift my late grandmother’s view and understanding of the transgender community and it was a PROFOUND experience for both of us. I don’t ever expect to meet this mentor but I’m soooooo glad I know her the way I do!

    My other mentor is my IRL best friend who is my age but perfectly more mature than me in all the ways that I am not more mature than her. Also can your mom be your mentor? I know that’s not as cool as Nora Ephron, but you really should meet my mom.

    Oh and can’t forget Lulu!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, I’m in tears, Hali. thank you so much.

    • Daniela says...

      I started reading Cup of Jo in college around 2012 too! This blog has been my constant friend so to speak for years. Joanna, you are an inspiration to many :)

    • Jean says...

      Same and same! My life has been changed (improved) in so many ways because of you and this blog, Jo. From “how to get the softest arms” to your go-to trick for anxiety. From the fun to the really really not fun, I find myself turning to old posts day after day for advice and comfort. I literally worry about if you were to ever take the old posts down because I reference them so often as guidance!

    • Hali says...

      Ah, yes! The old grand canyon trick has completely saved me from a number of sleepless nights! What a masterful piece of work this blog is! It would be such a cool coffee table book or encyclopedia of modern life. To see the way everything has evolved… So grateful for ALL of it!

    • Agnès says...

      That is such a nice comment, so deserved, so sincere, so well written!

  91. Fake it til you make it says...

    I needed some sort of parenting mentor when I had a newborn, but we were stranded in a sea of strangers after moving across the country and my mom, um, wasn’t helpful. When I was in a pickle I would ask myself “what would a good parent do?” and I would think about the parenting books I had read and Clair Huxtable and the moms I had seen around the playgrounds. It actually worked to sometimes just imitate a good mom and after a while it became less of an imitation.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love this, FITYMI :)

  92. Oh my goodness yes! I specifically think of you, Joanna, and Gretchen Rubin as my mentors-from-afar. I am so so thankful for the role you unknowingly play in my life. I’m in my early thirties with a young family and a lot of public-facing work. I often think of how you and Gretchen share yourselves and your families as models for how I want to live and do my work, especially in how true to your values you are, and how you’ve both found ways to write about your families and motherhood that seem both vulnerable about yourself and respectful of your children. I love knowing that you also have these mentors-from-afar – and thank you for being that for me!

  93. Hanna says...

    So funny, just today I was talking to a friend about how badly we both wanted/needed a mentor because making the ‚right‘ career and life decisions seems so so hard. Maybe I‘ll just watch brave people from afar to figur out my next steps!

  94. Wow, this is such amazing advice. Especially the “what would x person do.” One could even imagine their future self or where they’d want to be and ask ‘what would future self do?’ Meanwhile, this blog has been an inspiration of mine for the last decade or so. Especially Joanna’s kindness and realness (and her writers’) which has changed despite being becoming influential.

  95. Joanna, I feel this way about YOU! Part of the reason why I’m so comfortable in my own self at 37 is because I’ve been looking up to you since, well, you started blogging. We’ve never met, but you’re definitely one of my mentors in this way. Thank you. Thank you–truly.

    Anna

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that means so much to me, Anna. xoxo

  96. Laura says...

    This is such a lovely piece! I had an incredible mentor prior to grad school, when I had to move across the country. It sounds weird, but I still have conversations with him in my head to hash things out. It’s strange, but it works for me!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love that, Laura!!!

    • Daniela says...

      Not weird! I have conversations in my head with old therapists and potential therapists all the time when I need to work something out.

    • Katie says...

      Laura I have DAILY mental conversations with my former boss. I have no idea why it works but I get it!!!

    • L.L. Gross says...

      Such a lovely piece indeed!
      When I have a specific issue that needs turning over, usually dealing with my sculpture practice, I do a meditation at night while lying in bed.
      Envision getting in an elevator and going down ( to the subconscious) then walking down a hallway and opening a door to find a room with the people and images I need to see and hear.
      I can fall asleep this way and hopefully continue the dialogue in my dreams.