“Help! I need a mentor.”

Mentoring relationship
You will find a mentor if you follow these steps and seek one like you need it, because you do. (Click to Tweet)

That was the message I essentially got from a reader recently. His actual email went like this:

I just saw your post about going to meet with your mentor and so I thought I’d ask you, “how do/did you find your mentors? This may sound strange, but most of my entire career has been spent in search of great mentors, and I consistently come up empty. I always read, in leadership books, the importance of having great mentors but good grief, I have failed miserably at finding them. I’ve asked at work, which usually involves me being placed into “mentoring programs” (actually this is funny; I was put into a mentoring program last year, am now leading that program and still don’t have a mentor). Aghhhhhh!! So what’s the key? Who do I ask? Where do I look? Maybe this is a good topic for a blog post too because I know others struggle as well, but NO ONE could have possible have had as much trouble as me with this. Any suggestions?

I wish I could say I did it all the right way, but I didn’t. Here’s how the first four years of my spiritual mentor search went:

  1. Determined I needed a mentor.
  2. Had a guy ask to mentor me.
  3. Took that for granted and did nothing with it.
  4. Waited four more years and did nothing. Hoping that the Mentor Fairy would plop one into my lap.

The Mentor Fairy never showed up.

I finally gave myself an ultimatum. I would find the right mentor soon. And I did.

Here’s what worked for me.

Four steps to finding a mentor:

  1. List your criteria. This is the first and most important step. You must define what a mentor looks like to you and what you require of him or her. For my spiritual mentor, for example, I wanted male who had been a Christian for more than 10 years, married for at least that long as well, has children, and who had similar life experiences as me (i.e. business ownership or leadership at work). Make your own criteria. What are the “musts” for your mentor?
  2. Pray about it. It took me four years to do this. But I did finally ask God for help in finding a mentor…and in my case, He delivered quickly.
  3. Share with others. Share that you are looking for a mentor with as many trusted people as possible. Don’t worry about sharing all the criteria with them at this point, although you might specify some general requirements like gender, age, and location. Ultimately, in this step you are asking for names. For me, I shared it with my men’s group and two of them suggested the exact same person (he’s my mentor now).
  4. Ask. Once you have the first name (don’t wait for a list), ask that person. Be upfront with what you are looking for. Be open to arrangements that aren’t exactly what you wanted (i.e. more or less frequent meetings, location of meeting, etc.). Don’t ask to start a five-year mentorship just yet though. Just let him (or her) know that you highly respect him and are looking for a mentor. Ask if he would be open to serving in that role. Fear tells you they will probably say no, but the reality is that most people will be extremely flattered and honored, as well as excited to help someone so eager for help. In my case, I got the name on Wednesday, asked on Thursday and we scheduled a meeting for the following Monday. We’ve met every other Monday since.

It might take longer for you. Or less time. I am blessed to have found such an awesome mentor so quickly.

But you will find one if you follow these steps and seek one like you need it, because you do.

Do you have a mentor (or mentors)? If so, how did you find him or her?

17 thoughts on “How to Find a Mentor

  1. Eric Dingler says:

    Oops, I am totally missing step 1. Duh! Thanks for my food for thought for the weekend. I will have a list by Monday.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      It’s amazing how much faster the process goes when you know exactly what you are looking for. Consider it like a map.

      1. Eric Dingler says:

        Yep, this was one of those…duh moments. In everything else I start with the end mind, set goals, create lists and plan an attack.

        BTW, great post on Frontline Festival today at http://www.letsgrowleaders.com

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Thanks Eric! You too. Look forward to reading all of the rest.

  2. Christine Niles says:

    Excellent list, Matt! My list in #1 looks similar, but I’ll add that, as a woman in leadership who’s made the jump from corporate to ministry, that’s not easy to find. What I realized I was missing was Step 2 (duh). What I can’t find, God can.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Well said Christine!

  3. Steve Pate says:

    just curious, what would the mentor Fairy look like??? would it be a dude or a chick??lol

    I’ve had a couple mentors, but the one I’m meeting with right now, was a program from our association’s national office. But the factor is, we both want this journey! Being the mentee, I make sure to pursue time to talk, so it shows him that I’m serious and grateful for our time.

    So I have a question, I have a very good friend who has been meeting with two people that he would call mentors. One of them is younger than him. Do you guys think you can be mentored by some one who is few years younger then you? I go back and forth on this. Have a great weekend and thanks again Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:


      I think it depends on the mentor-type.

      if you are a newly-married 25-year old, you don’t want a single person of any age. But if you are a newly-married 35-year old, I would not be opposed to a 34-year old who has been married for 12 years being a marriage mentor.

      The same goes for business mentors…if you are a 50-year old starting a new business, why not have a mentor who is 42 and is in his 15th year as a successful entrepreneur.

      I’d dare say that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates consider each other mentors for different things, despite their age difference.

      1. Bob Winchester says:

        Totally agree with you Matt!

        I had a good friend in my men’s group that was much younger than me. However, he had kids starting at a much earlier age than I did. So, when it came to kids, he lead me, but when it came to business / career advice, I lead him. It worked pretty well even if we weren’t official “mentors”.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Ultimately “age” is relative. What you want is experience.

        I thought about it and even if someone is 28 and you are 42, they could still serve as a mentor in certain areas. Or at least a coach.

  4. Aaron Nelson says:

    Thanks for this post Matt. I will add points 1 and 2 to my mentor search. I have asked God for a mentor before, but just sorta in passing. I need to ask, and keep on asking. Knock, and keep on knocking, Seek, and keep on seeking.

    Great reminder. Thanks!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great Aaron! Let me know how it goes.

    2. Bob Winchester says:

      Yep, nail on the head! I gotta pray more on this too! I’ve been too passive for my own taste…

  5. Jon Stolpe says:

    I don’t currently have a Mentor – although there are many people who mentor me less directly. I appreciate this post as it’s been something I’ve been considering for a while. Thank you, Matt.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I highly recommend it Jon.

      It’s not immediately life changing, per se like a book can be, but over time it’s pretty remarkable. My mentor has had a huge impact on two friends of mine, one in a very life-saving kind of way.

  6. JCGiraldo says:

    I remember some years ago I was completely lost in the social media jungle and almost threw in the towel, but I am ruthless and stubborn ( in good way of course ), and i found a great person as Natascha Thomson who helped me and taught Me the right path, and we became in real friends and after we wrote articles together, that’s amazing isn’t ?

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is awesome JC. Exactly how it SHOULD be!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *