The best (and possibly only) mentors you’ll meet don’t come into your life through a formal mentoring program. They are not wearing stickers that say, “Hi my name is … And I will be your mentor today.” They are not assigned to you by attentive HR departments. They are not funded or facilitated or encouraged by a corporate program.
Mindy Kaling summarized it best in her book: "If you have the opportunity to observe someone at work, you are getting mentoring out of them even if they are unaware or resistant.” Sergey Brin famously asks people to tell him something he doesn’t know in a job interview, figuring he can get something out of the meeting even when he’s not going to hire the person. There are loads of these anecdotes sprinkled liberally through memoirs and autobiographies of people who did interesting things with their lives.
The best mentors don’t have to know they’re mentoring you. They don’t have to remember your name. They definitely don’t have to like you or want to help you.
You will learn the absolute most you can possibly learn, if you do two things: first, commit to stealing mentorship whenever, wherever, and from whomever you can and second, stay open to learning from unexpected people in unexpected places.
A mentoring opportunity can flit by in the blink of an eye. It won’t announce itself. You can’t anticipate its arrival. You just have to breathe deep and absorb as much as you can before it’s gone.