Congratulations – you’ve found a mentor! You defined the direction you wanted to go, you started with a previously established relationship and you’ve defined the role that your mentor will play, as well as the role you will play as a mentee.
The next step is the most important step of all: Keeping your Mentor. It sounds easy, right? You’ve built a relationship and you’ve started all the contact points. You’ve decided what you want out of the relationship and it’s stated in the open. Here’s the catch: your mentor/mentee relationship should be mutually beneficial. You can’t go into your relationship expecting your mentor to do all the “heavy lifting,” you have to expect to do the hard work as well.
Learning to be Led
They call us Millenials the “entitlement generation” for good reason – somehow some of us grew up expecting that things should be good, things should be easy, and most important, things should be given to us within minimal or no work. Granted, we don’t all have this attitude, and hopefully, we prayerfully are eliminating this entitled spirit from ourselves, but the fact remains that we were told we could do anything, be anything and “how can we help you get there?” by our parents. What we need to realize is that a mentoring relationship isn’t one that can be gone into with this idea – a mentoring relationship is one where you submit to another’s authority over you to say – “you know where I’m going, where I am now, and what it’s going to take to get me from A to B. Criticize me, bend me, lead me and I’ll do it.”
Your mentor sees the big picture – and they want to lead you further than just up the road. They want to lead you past the bend, past the horizon and past what you see for yourself. A true mentor sees your potential and helps you achieve that greatness.
What does this look like in real life? It’s meeting with our mentor – keeping a set date. It’s creating a goal list at that meeting with our mentor and actively working on that list between our next meeting. It’s reporting to our mentor between meets to say how we’re doing – and being accountable when we fail, being honest in our mistakes.
A mentor isn’t there to catch you when you fall – that is done by the other relationships you have such as friends and family – but a mentor is there to say “Okay, you failed. What are you going to do about it?” Your mentor is the voice of reality in your life. It’s up to you to follow the path your mentor is leading you down. Which is why it’s so important to have a mentor that follows God.
As the voice of reality, a mentor will point out your faults and the stumbling blocks to success in your life. The hard part as a mentee is not only accepting this criticism but being vulnerable enough with your mentor to ask them to elaborate on their criticism. Noting the problem, and asking for further explanation in order to understand how it affects your life, and why it’s a negative.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill
Criticism is uncomfortable. It’s negative, and it’s never easy to give or receive. As a mentor, it’s difficult to point out to your mentee, but as a mentee, you can make this easier and strengthen your relationship by seeking both positive and negative feedback. You determine the course of your relationship by your response to your mentor. If you want a positive long-term relationship, your reaction to criticism will determine that.
Tracking Personal Progress
A crucial component of keeping a mentor is to track your personal progress and maintain consistent self-awareness. What you put into your relationship will be what you gain. We all know the words “you reap what you sow,” and they fit here quite well. Our desire to grow must be more than our desire to be comfortable. Setting goals with your mentor is starting the process, but in order to keep that mentor relationship and keep it profitable and beneficial for all involved, it’s important for you to set mini-goals surrounding those goals you’ve set together. Set a time to track your personal progress. Pray about your relationship and the goals you’re setting. Maintain consistent self-awareness by examining yourself realistically – not just by what you want to see in yourself. What are you truly accomplishing? Are you growing? Are you progressing?
“The better you’re able to understand yourself, the better you’re able to give yourself away…You have a responsibility to figure out who you are, your strengths and talents, and to use them to help people know God.” – Jason Jaggard
Keeping a mentor is an intentional choice. It’s something you have to work at, but it’s one of the most valuable investments you can make. When you find a good mentor, keep them. Find a way to keep that connection. You may have many mentors that come and go throughout various seasons, and part of the process is knowing when to hold on and when to let go. If you’re invested in the relationship, the timing will make itself known. Find a mentor you can trust, and keep them in a relationship that is beneficial for both of you.