How to Find a Great Mentor – Part 2
Welcome to “How to Find a Great Mentor – Part II.” If you haven’t read Part I of this series, go back and check it out. However, before we go any further, there’s something you should know. I’ve been mentoring people for almost 40 years. I have also been mentored by some wonderful people during that time. So the stuff you’re reading is written from the perspective of both a mentor and a mentee (the person being mentored.) I didn’t want you to think I was making all this up out of thin air!
This month we want to look at the practical side of finding a mentor. Last month we suggested you ask God to help you find someone, and that you begin to ask your colleagues/friends if they know anyone who’s gifted in this area. Once you’ve done that, make a list of the names you’ve acquired.
Do you know anyone on that list? If so, is the chemistry good between you? (For a discussion about chemistry see last month’s blog.) If the answer is “yes” to both those questions, then you’ve found a good place to start the process of exploration. On the other hand, if you don’t know anybody on the list, just randomly pick someone. If this sounds irresponsible, read Acts 1:21-26 where the disciples pick a new Apostle. Whether you know anybody on the list or not, here’s the next step.
Send them an email. Make it short. If necessary, introduce yourself. Tell them you’re looking for a mentor and heard they are one. Ask if they’re taking on new mentees. If so, ask if they would be able to talk on the phone or meet in person to explore that possibility with you. Once the email is sent, you wait.
If you don’t hear back from them within a week, then check them off your list and go on to the next name. They’re either too busy or not interested. You don’t want a mentor who makes you feel like they don’t have time for you. If they are the only name on your list, don’t give up! Start the search process again. This is too important to give up after only one try.
However, if they do get back to you, then you need to get ready for that exploratory meeting. They may have responded by asking you a few questions. Answer these within 24 hours. They need to know you’re serious about this. Once you’ve answered their questions and nailed down a time and place to meet, here are a few other things to do to get ready.
First, come to the meeting with some questions of your own. Ask about how they became a mentor and how they developed their approach to mentoring. Think through some of the topics you hope to work on in the months ahead. Make sure this potential mentor has some experience in those areas. Ask how often they meet. Ask where the meetings usually occur and how long they last. By the way, unlike counselors or life coaches, mentors seldom charge for their services. That said, it might not be a bad idea to verify that. Finally, make sure to look at your calendar before this first meeting so you’ll know when you’re free to meet should you both decide you’re going to give it a try.
While this exploratory meeting is going on, it’s crucial that you pay attention to the person you’re meeting with and to your own feelings. Refer to the things we discussed in last month’s blog. Do a quick, on the spot evaluation of those things. Ask God to help you think clearly.
If you like this person and all the “lights are green” then ask if they’d be willing to start meeting on a trial basis for 3 to 6 months. After that, you can both decide if you’d like to keep meeting. Going forward, it’s a good idea to take it one year at a time, after which either party can decide to stop meeting. Things and people change. By committing to one year at a time, you have a relatively easy exit strategy should you feel the “shelf-life” of the relationship has expired.
All that said, it’s possible that during your exploratory meeting you realize you’re just not sure if this is the right person. If that’s the case, thank them for their time, and tell them you want to think about what they’ve said. Mention that you’ll be in touch in the next few days. Then go home to think and pray.
If you’re pretty sure they’re not the one, send them an email and humbly thank them for their time and willingness to explore this possibility. Then tell them you felt like it wasn’t a good fit and so you’re going to keep on looking. You might feel a bit awkward about this. But let me assure you, as a mentor, I want to hear about that kind of thing up front. That’s way better than clunking along for months because the mentor/mentee fit isn’t very good. Don’t worry about us mentors. We’ll be fine!
Hopefully though, at some point you’ll find a mentor who is willing to try things out for 3 to 6 months. When that happens, don’t worry about the structure of the meetings. Your mentor will take care of that. If things go well, you’re going to discover that working with a mentor is invaluable. It may be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. God has changed the lives of millions of people through a mentoring relationship. At some point it will be your turn. You’re going to love it!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.