The word mentor is being tossed about quite frequently these days. Sometimes in a positive light, sometimes in the negative, but I would guess you’ve heard the word and concept debated recently. There are a lot of people saying you need a mentor – but not a lot of information telling you how to find one. You can google “find a mentor” and come up with approx.. 126,000,000 (yes, that’s million) results, but most of them give you “don’ts” not “dos.” So, how do you go about finding a solid mentor?
Start with the purpose of mentorship. Mentor is defined as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Therefore, we know this person needs to be someone we trust to lead us in the right direction. Yet, they are much more than a teacher. There is a three-part purpose in having a mentor. A mentor needs to be someone who will hold you accountable, who will demand growth and will also lead you by modeling.
“Self-evaluation is helpful, but evaluation by others is essential.” – DALE PARTRIDGE
I love the quote above because it speaks to the idea of accountability. Your mentor should not only encourage you to set clear goals, but needs to also keep you accountable to the goals you set. It’s easy to change our minds when things get hard, but the purpose of a mentor is to remind you of your direction, and help guide you through the paths they’ve already taken to arrive at your chosen destination.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” – ANTHONY ROBBINS
There is much truth in the statement of growth and comparison to dying with a lack of growth. A mentorship is formed on the basis of growth. You, the mentee, desire to become more like the mentor – which will only come about during a time of personal growth. It is vital that you and the mentor are both committed to growth, regardless of how much you may have to work through.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
The last purpose of a mentorship is for your mentor to model the behaviors and values that you want to possess. It is vital that whoever your mentor is and how they live is something you would want to emulate. You are committing to spend a great amount of time with this person, gleaning valuable information from them. Study them. Take time to find out more about their past and how that shaped their present. Mentorship is about experiential learning – learning passed down from those with experience – your mentor is modeling their experience in front of you.
Now that we have the purpose down, let’s look at the three key steps to finding a mentor. Are you ready? Here’s your roadmap!
Define Your Direction
Are you in college? What is your degree? Are you still in high school? Do you know what your next plans are? Are you praying about them? Defining your direction is key before you ever think about inviting a mentor into your life. A mentorship is a huge commitment – for mentor and mentee – and you don’t want to waste your time or theirs with a mentorship that isn’t a good fit, simply because they were available. Once your direction is defined, you will be able to move on to the next step.
Start with Relationship
Now that you know where you’re headed and maybe have a semblance of plans on how to get there, start looking at the relationships you currently have in your life. It is never appropriate to ask a stranger, or someone you are not already friends with, to be your mentor. You must have a preexisting relationship with someone before requesting them to be your mentor. Who is around you that will be able to guide you around obstacles in your path and has experience in your chosen field? That could include your parents, pastor, family friends or business acquaintances that you already have a relationship with. Remember, you’re baring your soul to this person, and you need to know you can trust them.
Define the Role
Lastly, define the role your mentor will play in your life. Is this a paid mentorship for a career move? (Which is not addressed in this post at all.) Is this an all-encompassing relationship where there are no boundaries and the mentor has full reign on leading, guiding, and generally shaping you as a person as well as in your chosen field? You need to lay out the ground rules so the expectations are being met on both sides. Spend some time in prayer. Individually and with your mentor as well. Ambiguity and mistaken expectations can tear apart any relationship, but can be especially damaging in the mentor relationship. Prayer will help keep your mentor relationship on the right course.
How does all of this connect with your walk with God? One of the best examples of strong, and true mentoring occurred in the books of I & II Timothy in the letters between Paul and Timothy. Paul was Timothy’s mentor – among others. Paul was not the solo voice in Timothy’s life, and your mentor should not be the only voice speaking into yours either.
Ending with a very scary statistic from USA Today that reinforces our need as Apostolic young people to have mentors in our lives: “…study found that those who maintain their religion in college were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church, and 90% of those who left never had a church mentor (emphasis added).” Notice that this is taken from a secular newspaper. If the world recognizes the need for mentors in the church, it seems time that the church recognizes it as well.
Define your direction by prayer and fasting. Build relationships with people you admire and who have Godly values. Define the role your mentor will play in your life and place yourself under accountability to them. “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5).”