Everyone “knows” they could benefit from having a mentor, or, better still, several mentors throughout their lives to help them learn key lessons at key moments of decision.
A lot of times we make the mistake of believing our mentors will just come along, like Obi Wan rescuing Luke in Star Wars. When we think about mentors, we have this picture in our heads: youthful, optimistic young person launches out into the world, ends up in a jam and is rescued by the wise old sage.
More often than not, that’s not how it works. You need to seek out mentors, looking for specific people who have accomplished the goals toward which you are working.
But what happens if you find the “wrong” mentor? What happens if they look great, but you don’t “click” … or, worse, what happens if you take their advice, and it doesn’t work out? Sometimes, that kind of experience can motivate people to swear off mentors and try to go it all on their own. A dangerous journey, because you still don’t know what you don’t know.
Dangers of not having the right mentor
You cannot transform your thinking when all you have is your own thinking. You just end up with a variation of your past, and you artificially limit your personal growth potential. With a mentor, you have an opportunity to transform your thinking, to learn things you don’t know you don’t know and to answer questions you didn’t think to ask.
We all have blind spots. Mentors can help us remove those blinders and offer a broader scope and a bigger canvas on which to work. They can help us see roadblocks and pitfalls, and, if we miss them and get tripped up anyway, a good mentor can help you recover faster. Because they’ve been there, and they have the invaluable perspective of experience.
Questions to ask when considering a mentor
Not everyone with wisdom and experience is a good fit for you. Sometimes, the line between “mentor” and “friend” can feel a bit blurry. Friends tend to give advice, while mentors ask questions, listen, then ask more questions to draw out your inner strength. Their goal is to help you find the right answer, not to tell you what they think you should do. When it’s working, you reach that “aha!” moment. The lightbulb goes off, and, together, you set a course of action.
To find the right mentor, you need to have a clear idea of where you want to go and what you want out of a mentor. Then you need to interview them.
Does your potential mentor:
- Offer insightful, well-placed questions rather than advice?
- Seek to connect and understand?
- Possess personal integrity
- Have proven skills with definitive results
- Demonstrate willingness to put in the time and effort you deserve
Another key aspect of finding the right mentor is comfort level. A mentoring relationship should be built on the foundation of asking well-placed questions and exploring the answers together. Many of those questions will begin outside your comfort zone. Are you comfortable enough with that person to be uncomfortable through the process?
Mentoring relationships are founded on trust.
People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If you are comfortable enough to trust your mentor, even when you are outside your comfort zone, that’s a great sign you found someone worth investing your time in.
The right mentor will open you up, expand your understanding and your horizons, will challenge you and affirm you. This only happens when the relationship is right. Mentoring is designed to make you better through the process, more prepared to achieve your goals and better able to enjoy the journey.