4 Keys to Finding The Perfect Mentor You’ve Always Wanted

Margaret —  October 22, 2012 — 46 Comments

 

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Over the years, I’ve found some incredible mentors in my life—people who have spoken words of wisdom and guidance into our marriage, finances, personal life, and ministry. These people have left me wonderstruck by the richness they've added into my life.  But to be honest, finding such people hasn’t been easy. At times, I’ve reached out to people I hoped would become mentors who didn’t respond, didn’t have time, or didn’t particularly connect with the idea. Other times, I’ve waited for people to reach out to me, even dropping hints along the way, but the relationship never developed.

Here are four keys I’ve discovered to finding the perfect mentor:

1. Reconsider the meaning of mentor. One of the great challenges of mentoring is that the word “mentor” means something wildly different to everyone. Some people think of a mentor as a sage who answers life’s toughest questions. Others are looking for someone who looks more like a best friend. Still others are looking for a business or life coach.

Rather than use the word “mentor” when approaching someone, consider simply asking someone to lunch to build a friendship and learn from them. Often these efforts produce a more organic, natural relationship and provide time for prayerfully considering if this is someone you want to learn from.

2. Make sure there’s a personal connection. Sometimes in our eagerness to find a mentor, we ask people we look up to to become mentors before any real personal connection is made. We may like them, the idea of them, or what they’ve accomplished. But when we sit down face to face with them, there may not be any real connection. If you’re thinking about reaching out to someone as a mentor, begin by simply getting to know them as a person and make sure some synergy between both of you exists.

3. Check out the person’s life. I confess to watching people’s lives from a distance and thinking, “Wow! I want to be like that so-and-so!” But as I learn about the person and their life, I've thought, “I don’t want to turn out like that.” We can learn from anyone, even donkeys, but if you’re going to invite someone to speak into your life, look at the fruit of theirs. Make sure you’re not aligning your life with someone who has self-destructive tendencies or behaviors.

4. Adjust your expectations. All too often, we’re looking for that superhuman mentor who can provide all the wisdom and insight we need in every area of our life. If we’re honest, we’re not looking for a mentor as much as we’re looking for a superhero who we can access on speed dial at any time. One person can’t possibly offer the guidance and wisdom you need in every area of your life.

Over the years, Leif and I have developed relationships with a spectrum of men and women who passionately love God. Some of them are brilliant when the topic of finances come around. Others have marriages that inspire us to love each other more. Others have rich insights into ministry. Others have wisdom in managing people. Others challenge us to rethink the way we approach writing and publishing. Still others have insights into prayer, growing in God, and diving into the Scriptures.

As we nurture relationships with these gifted people, we’re able to ask questions and learn from them when we’re together. But every person has different strengths. Identify the strengths of your mentor and learn as much as you can whenever you’re together.

Take a risk, and reach out to someone in your community today that can serve as a mentor and friend. Prepare to #livewonderstruck by what God just might do in and through you!   

 

*Photo courtesy of here

 

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46 responses to 4 Keys to Finding The Perfect Mentor You’ve Always Wanted

  1. Oh Boy!
    Mentorship…

    I’m still waiting on two people to get back to me but I am kindda resigned that they might not :). There is one i really really really wanted with all of me… then we had one conversation. Just ONE and i realised, she wasn’t for me

    For now, I guess, I am just going to wait…

  2. MizPage, I think so much of that is a normal (thought, at times, difficult) part of the process. If you asked someone to be your mentor that might be a little overwhelming, but if you asked someone to have coffee or such then you can start to feel like it’s a good match. I, too, have reached out to people who I thought it would be a great match, and it just wasn’t. And within a single lunch, I knew that we weren’t a great fit. And that’s okay. Actually–it’s a gift–and invites us to pray and seek God and see who He has in mind that might be a better fit!

    • Margaret, thank you for writing this. I have had really wonderful experiences with different people who have deposited excellence into my life. I love how you wrote that each mentor has different strengths. Knowing this and that they have weaknesses as well, keeps me from putting them in a superhero spot in my life! :) I have also learned, the hard way ugh, to ALWAYS pay close attention to the “gut” checks! I feel this is God’s love and protection! :) :)

      • Renee,

        Oh so true! There are people who I can learn so much from about marriage, but I don’t want them anywhere near my finances :). And people who can help me grow in God in significant ways but I wouldn’t want to take an organize-your-life crash course from them. Yet so many people hold treasures to learn from… and we grow when we seek those out and learn all we can.

  3. thank you for this information, i actually reached out to someone a couple of weeks back and she agreed! praying and hoping it works out.

  4. Ummm the word mentorship just scares me! I think partially because I’ve never chosen one that is a good fit – or they’ve been “assigned’ to me.

    I’m definitely going to be putting these 4 check items to good use!

    And also? So humbled that you stopped by my blog! xoxo

    And you’re going to be at Wooddale church :) love that place. Miss my midwest!

    Kacia

    • Kacia,

      I agree the word is scary, but oh so important to be intentional about developing those relationships with older, wiser people. We were at Wooddale about two weeks ago and loved it. Fantastic people and the worship team was extraordinary.

      • Bah! I didn’t look at the date right – sorry about that!

        Yes – Definitely so important, yet so easy to get discouraged- but this post was a good reminder of just how important it is.

        *writes it down in measurable goals list*

        • Kacia,

          No worries about the date–we hope we will be back in the area. It’s amazing. Oh, and there’s this killer cafe called Colossal Cafe in Minneapolis. Ironically only sits about 15, but spectacular made-from-scratch food and all around deliciousness!

  5. I especially like your closing paragraph about having a multitude of mentors. I’ve found that to be so true in my own case. There are people who challenge me professionally, challenge me with my family, and challenge me with ministry – but often those aren’t the same people. I think we actually do an injustice to our mentors when we expect one person to be a wisdom-dispensing sage in every single area of our life. Plus, it’s often not about whether they’re wise in a particular area but rather if their experience and wisdom is what we need to hear at the moment. It’s about a connection, if that makes sense.

    • Loren,

      I think looking for different mentors really helps us find the strengths in each mentoring relationship. The idea of one person being an end-all-be-all just isn’t realistic…and looking for many allows us to celebrate each person’s strengths (and gain from them!). Blessings to you, Loren!

  6. Oh my word! You just stopped by my blog and left a comment on the Lasagna for 50 and I about jumped out of my chair with excitement lol!!! I had to click through and see if it was really the Margaret I thought it was! Thanks for stopping by!!!
    Keep writing and shining!
    Courtney :)

  7. Courtney,
    You are welcome! Thanks for having a great blog!

  8. I have just finished writing a book on navigating transition through intergenerational mentoring relationships . I have asked some of the girls I have mentored to contribute chapters and was literally just an hour ago discussing the very issues you raised in this post ! #CrossWiseLiving .

  9. I think people often find that I present myself as mature and just thrust me into situations, and haven’t really mentored me. I’m lucky that there is a system of mentorship in my profession, and I plan to keep at it when I’m licensed. But finding other mentors has been more difficult, because they assume I should be the one doing the mentoring. So they just push me out into responsibility, without much training. It’s tough.

    • Heather,

      Okay, that is fascinating. It sounds like you carry yourself with that competent, trustworthy vibe. Boy that can get you in trouble–okay, just kidding. But I think you’re oh-so-right about getting plunged in, always assuming that because of your age or the way you carry yourself or your resume or title that you have all the answers…when you don’t, I don’t, none of us do…and may I add, especially in this age when all the rules/everything is changing. Praying that God brings someone, an unexpected someone, to cheer you on.

  10. margaret, this is good encouragement. i know it’s mistake to wait for these relationships to magically happen. i need to be bold and just ask. honestly, i’ve poured so much into younger women, that the idea of seeking out mentors for myself makes me feel kind of grumpy. i want it, but i hate the idea of being the pursuer, again. meh. (but thanks, tho, for real:)

    • Suzannah,
      First of all, I love the word meh. I put the word in Wonderstruck and an editor wanted it out. She said people didn’t know what it meant. To which I said, “Meh. Then they need to get an urbandictionary.com.” :)

      Second, yes, reaching out can make us feel grumpy…man, I’ve felt it. And as so many have expressed, reaching out is hard and difficult and downright exhausting at times! Sometimes even thinking about it makes us tired. So I’m just going to pray right now that God brings someone in your life. No. Erase that. I’m praying that God has already brought someone in your life, and that they’ve been there and that you haven’t seen them, but that soon you will. Soon you will recognize that the gift of that person is already there, and you’ll stand in awe of what God has been orchestrating in your midst. Amen.

      And if you don’t like that prayer, well, meh! :) Much love, Margaret

  11. This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I would love to have an older, wiser woman I can share with. Two obstacles for me are being in a small community and being a teacher myself (Psalm 119:99). The possibilities seem limited, but I know that God can provide. Thank you for your guidance.

  12. This is a great post, Margaret. I love what you said to Suzannah in your prayer–that there’s already someone in her life and we just need eyes to see.

    I am in a season where I need new growth. I realized I’d reached a plateau and I can either stay here and do the same things, or add new ideas and tools to my life. I got a book that I’m working through, but I also decided to be intentional about getting a mentor to help me in my leadership journey. I am blessed with wonderful women around me and several I meet with, but I think this relationship is one I want to be intentional about. I really appreciated your points as I pray for the next steps.

  13. Hey this is way helpful – very crisp and cuts at the heart. Is this the way you speak too? I have been on a wild ride both seeking and more recently being a mentor…I think we all long to have someone guide us and be strong for us…someone clothed in flesh (and of our gender); but it isn’t always easy. It takes coming into one’s skin to be able to really receive mentoring and also to offer it.
    thanks!

    • Jenni,

      An outstanding point “It takes coming into one’s skin to be able to really receive mentoring and also to offer it”. The idea of coming into ones skin is oh-so important and essential and seems take most of us a lifetime (I think I could use an extra hundred years or so!). But part of the discernment process in finding/being a mentor is knowing who you are and what you need and what you have to offer. I’ve said “no” to mentoring a lot of people because I knew it wasn’t a good fit, and also because I was already mentoring so many than adding more would take away from those I already committed to.

  14. Wow! I can’t believe you just wrote what I have been doing for years…and what I have been failing at for years! thanks for this post–even though I have not been successful in finding a mentor, it’s encouraging to read that I have done a few things right…
    I started reading, and after I read the first point, I thought–ooh, I like that, and then I realised that my early attempts at finding a mentor were that way…and on to points 2 and 3, where I was saying ‘me too’ and beginning to wonder where Ikeep going wrong…
    And then your last point…oh, how I long for a fellow sojourner who can understand about the ‘trial and error’ of daily decision making, and who sees that the greatest successes are not because of what we know, but because we are Spirit led, Spirit fed, Spirit dependent.
    So, the only thing you haven’t covered is how to find a person who is willing to walk along side of a nobody…
    Thanks for the practical encouragement!

    • I’m curious what you mean “the only thing you haven’t covered is how to find a person who is willing to walk along side a nobody”. None of us are nobodies–in God’s eyes we’re all God’s children, prized possessions. So can you clarify what you mean by “walk along side of nobody”, I really want to better understand.

      • Oh yes! I know God’s opinion of me…and how He values me as His beloved…
        But, I get a few years into building that relationship…and I think things are going well, and I haven’t really labeled my ‘mentor’ as such officially…more of a friend who is a bit ahead of me on the road of life and who is navigating well by depending on God. And the person has said things that lead me to believe that I could ask those questions that befuddle me…and then I get a response like, ‘I’m so busy with really important things and people, so I can’t take time to talk about this with you’…and then the friendship withers and dies a painful death while I wonder when I stopped being one of those important people who used to be worth the time…and I go back to sticking to those shallow, surface conversations because they are safe.
        I’m not asking to be put on a pedestal, or given special treatment…I DO know how to get my sense of worth from God, but life is hard, and there are times when caring guidance from a real, live, God-honoring human being would be SO helpful!

        • Oof! I’m so sorry–that sounds really painful and hard. It makes me spin with a billion questions…and I bet you’ve asked a zillion more….like are these people transitioning in life and just have less time, are your questions just stumping these people and beyond their knowledge/skills/ability to coach and counsel, and they don’t know what to say so they back out….goodness, these are tough!

          • Ah! Thanks for the understanding reply…
            I think transitions are a part of it…however, we really DO make time for the things that are important, regardless of how busy we become, so I don’t believe that is the whole story.
            You bring up some good things to consider…and maybe that’s more my expectation from a mentor than actual ‘answers’…sometimes, just to be heard validates my concerns and the best mentor would be one who can acknowledge the hard and hurtful things in life, and then join with me in prayer.
            Thanks for the validation!

            • You’re welcome, my sweet sister. And I think you tap into something oh-so-important. And that is the idea that often when we think of mentor we tend to think of someone who has the answers. And when we think of ourselves being the mentor, we think we have to have the answers (which is why we don’t do it sometimes–super intimidating) but what you say “one who can acknowledge the hard and hurtful things in life, and then join with me in prayer”–well, that’s the heart of mentorship along with being able to say the difficult things at the appropriate times.

  15. Great post! First, I love the approach of starting with lunch and then allowing it to form naturally.
    Second, I usually tell people that there is typically one unique difference between a friend and an actual mentor.
    Friends generally stick with us through everything, are supportive, but might not always speak difficult truth into our lives is there is a risk that it could affect the relationship.
    The real key to mentoring, in my opinion, is their willingness to tell us things that may be hard to hear…even if it may risk cutting off the relationship.
    I’m currently involved with ‘infuse’ led by Jim Wideman, and this is what I expect from him and his coaches. I don’t want them to filter their input into my life and leadership growth. And Jesus didn’t do this with his disciples…he told them what they ‘needed’ to hear.
    Thanks for posting this, Margaret!

    • Brent,
      That’s a great distinction. Friends and mentors are not the same often, though mentors can develop into sweet friends and friends can develop into mentors in certain areas. I think Leif and may be a little unique in that we develop a ton of friendships with people who are not are age–both younger and older. In fact, I’d think that the majority of friends are at least 10 years older or younger than us…which may be different than most people (or the same)…I’d love to know from anyone who wants to comment on that…

      But when your friends are much older or younger, the mentorship angle can play a role overtly or subvertly.

  16. I have also been blessed by some incredible mentors. They started off as friendships with older pastors and professors – and have grown into very reliable figures in my life which have helped me through some major decisions!

    • Having the mentor to walk through the thick and thin with you is irreplaceable! Thanks for sharing, Dave.

      • Hi, I met you at Capital Church in Utah this last weekend, I am doing a Profile for an English Class I am in and I would love to do that Profile on you, I didn’t know how else to get into contact with you so I thought this might work. I would like to do a Skype interview or over the phone so that I could ask you some questions about your life and if there are any social issues that you and the rest of the world deal with I would also like to know about that as well. Please email me and let me know my email is above but if you do not get that then it is Kaiya_R_2000@yahoo.com. Thank you for your time it is January 31st and I would like to do the interview sometime this weekend if you have time for because my paper is due by next Tuesday. Thank you again, Kaiya

  17. Hi I love what you wrote, you really do provide a sence of clarity in this issue. One thing that shook me a little was in number 3 when you said “with someone who has self-destructive tendencies” …
    What if you ARE that person?

    • Britt,
      Then you need to get help. Professional counseling. People in your life who can help you lay hold of freedom, call you on your behavior, and love you through the process of choosing life and health above all else.

  18. I have several mentors, sometimes I think I am hogging all the good ones! God knew I needed them as I came face to face with Jesus at 31 so I had a LOT to learn.. :) I love the idea of having people a few steps in front of you, then your shoulder to shoulder friends and then those you are a few steps in front of, a consistent flow if you will! It is always organic in my life, structure alludes me.. ps. I just started reading your blog and I LOVE IT.. also reading Wonder Struck too, YAY Pixie Dust..

  19. LOVE this article! I’m a big fan of organic, natural mentoring relationships. During the Friendship chapter in Wonderstruck, I encouraged the women in our group to look for a mentor. As I described the people who I consider mentors, I explained that I’ve never had a discussion with ANY of them asking them to be a mentor. I’ve simply noticed things about them…their faith, their family, their marriage, etc. and decided I’m going to watch them and look up to them. Over the years, I have mentioned to a few that I consider them a mentor and was surprised when one responded back about how her daughters consider me a mentor. What a gift from God – nothing formal was ever set up, but He has built three “generations” of Christian women who are watching how the others live their faith out in their lives. To me, those natural mentoring relationships are better than anything formal we could ever try to set up.

    One question…I’d like to copy this article to give out in my Bible study next week, as we wrap-up and skype with you. It would be really helpful if you would provide printer-friendly links on your blog so they would be easier to print. Thanks!

  20. Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing many months of hard work
    due to no back up. Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Theology and Ministry Links « chriskidd.co.uk - October 27, 2012

    [...] 4 Keys to Finding The Perfect Mentor You’ve Always Wanted: Margaret Feinberg writes a great post on ways to finding a mentor: Make sure there’s a personal connection: Sometimes in our eagerness to find a mentor, we ask people we look up to to become mentors before any real personal connection is made. We may like them, the idea of them, or what they’ve accomplished. But when we sit down face to face with them, there may not be any real connection. [...]

  2. 4 Keys to Finding The Perfect Mentor You’ve Always Wanted, by Margaret Feinberg | Two Handed Warriors - October 29, 2012

    [...] Continue reading [...]

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