The value of a mentor cannot be overestimated. A mentor is someone who is a few laps ahead of you in an area of life where you wish to find success. More than formal training, more than a book or a seminar, a good mentor brings his or her personal experience to bear on your life in a way that may shape it forever.
I have five people in my life that I consider mentors. Each addresses a different area of my life. They each hold a special place in my life. By the way, I mentor a hand full of young leaders. I like to follow a Biblical model of having a Paul in my life - a mentor, a Barnabas - a colleague I can talk to, and a Timothy - a mentee.
Here's the big questions you may be asking. "How do I find a mentor?" I actually have a complete presentation on this but here are five quick tips to find a mentor:
Don’t Start with Seth Godin or Max Lucado. Yes, we’d all love to have someone at the top of our profession mentor us. But not only is this unrealistic, it’s also unhelpful. Chances are that the advice of someone at the very top would be intimidating or unhelpful to you at your current pace of life. Instead, look for someone a few levels ahead of you in your chosen field. Someone accessible to you. There is a pastor in my region who is a successful coach and author. At the present time, he’s a good fit for me in the realm of coaching and international speaking.
Attend trade functions, conferences, and/or network gatherings in your community. As a pastor, I regularly attend pastor’s gatherings in our area. I’ve also done this in the leadership field. Simply attending and meeting new people has led to many rich mentoring relationships. If you stay inside your office your entire life, you’ll never experience the opportunity to be enriched by the wisdom of others.
Make friendships through simple conversation. You don’t find a mentor by asking someone, “Can you be my mentor?” I literally saw a young millennial approach a business friend of mine and make this request. That’s a bit awkward and may seem to put a heavy burden on someone who doesn’t know you very well. Instead, meet people, develop relationships through conversation and let natural human interaction be your guide.
Follow up with a request to meet again, one-on-one. If you’ve gotten to know someone you think you can learn from, get his contact information and ask him something like, “Hey, I’d love to sit for coffee and pick your brain on _______.” This is the intentional part of finding a mentor. I’ve done this a number of times both with pastors and other leaders and have found them eager to share what they know about their chosen field.
Ask questions. When you do meet for coffee, pepper the mentor with questions and then sit back and listen. Ask him questions like, “How did you get into this field?” “What have you learned over the years?” “What do you think of this idea?” Don’t try to wow him with all you’ve done. You’re there to learn from his success. I always come prepared with questions. I don't want to waste my mentors valuable time.
Mentoring relationships are valuable . . . and they aren’t complicated. They are simply friendships which have the potential to help shape your future.
Oh, and a bonus tip: pick up the tab. The wisdom you gain is well worth the price of a latte.
Question: What have you done to find a mentor? You can leave a comment below.