I was waiting for something or other, and picked up a magazine to help pass the time. In an article on career management, I came across the most disturbing question ever, and it's a concept that I've kept in mind ever since. The question is this: Who's watching your career? Ouch!
Well, who is watching? Worst case answer is nobody, but I seriously doubt that there is no one who is interested in you and your musical journey. The challenge then is to discover who is interested and whether that interest can be nurtured toward some positive outcomes.
Mentors are invaluable for elevating your craft in a number of ways. They help you to learn the ropes and avoid the pitfalls, and to set goals and targets. They also model 'best practices' and may even introduce you to their network.
The best situation is when a top pro takes an interest in you. It can be as simple as an invite to jam, and it can be as involved as a mentor grooming a mentee for greater things. It means other people -- talented, connected, influential people -- are keeping an eye on you. Even better, they’ll likely think of you when opportunities arise. A lot of careers have been launched when a teacher recommended a student for a high-profile job.
Teachers quite often evolve into mentors. My own student-teacher relationship was like this. My teacher and I spent a lot of time together outside the lesson hall and we became good friends. I've tried to repay this by carrying his message to my own students and mentees.
A mentor can be from any industry, although it makes sense to favour someone from the music business. Teacher, band-mate, music store personnel, agent/manager, good friend ... they all are possible mentors.
Or maybe you're the one who's in a position to mentor a young (or at least newer) player. This is always a great experience, as the benefits go both ways. Aside from all the warm fuzzies involved, it's good experience, it helps build your character, and you can connect with your passion for music in a variety of ways.