Mindy Kaling, actress, comedian and author, blossomed from writing a play and living in a cockroach-infested New York City apartment to being a writer on “The Office” to now creating and starring in her own quirky, romantic comedy-inspired “The Mindy Project.”
She recently released her second book “Why Not Me?” which I had the pleasure of reading while traveling this past weekend. Aside from being absolutely hilarious, this book provides readers with life and career advice from this successful, relatable woman. Advice even extends to having her mentor, Greg Daniels, write 2 ½ pages on mentorship.
Daniels, a writer, producer and director of many popular shows such as “The Office,” was the first to hire Kaling in Los Angeles. They worked closely together on the show and although Daniels never formally became Kaling’s mentor, “he took a chance on me, and he provided me with an example of someone whose career I admired and wanted,” she said.
In this brief chapter on mentorship, Daniels writes that, in his industry, there are many young people fighting to write and act, vying to replace older talent. “They are your competition and should be ruthlessly put down, not trained and encouraged.”
But somehow, he ended up mentoring.
When interviewing Kaling for “The Office,” she was shy. You’d never expect this from her current, impossible-to-ignore presence, but that’s because Daniels “gave her a lot of room to shine and open up.”
Daniels has extensive experience in show business, including writing for “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.” The skills he’s practiced have then been able to transfer into notes on Kaling’s work, helping her career develop, while collaborating to create the ever-popular “The Office.”
His advice to those looking for a mentor: “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 mentor and try to get close …”
Although Daniels didn’t flat out tell us how to become a mentor, I think the above advice can be flipped. For those who want to become mentors, make a list of people who resemble a younger version of you and try to get close to them. Who knows? Maybe your mentee could be the next Mindy Kaling.
Now, I’m not quite done with the book, so I’m going to get back to reading.
Wait … My editor might read this. I’ll get back to work. I promise!