“Help! I need a mentor.”
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:
- Determined I needed a mentor.
- Had a guy ask to mentor me.
- Took that for granted and did nothing with it.
- 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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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).
- 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?