Five Ways to Find a Mentor

This is a guest post by Daniel Darling. He is the Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of iFaith, Connecting with God in the 21st Century. You can read his blog or follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

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.

A Mentor Talking to His Mentee - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/asiseeit, Image #9854027

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/asiseeit

But how to find one? It’s actually easier than you think. Here are five ways to find a mentor:

  1. 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 community whose church is medium-sized, but not mega. Since I pastor a small church, he’s perfect for me and has the time.
  2. Attend trade functions or gatherings in your community. As a pastor, I regularly attend pastor’s gatherings in our area. I’ve also done this in the Christian publishing 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.
  3. Make friendships through simple conversation. You don’t find a mentor by asking someone, “Can you be my mentor?” 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.
  4. 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 with writers and have found them eager to share what they know about their chosen field.
  5. 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.

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 by clicking here.
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  • oad

    Are there any organizations that pair people with mentors, or let people register/search for those interested in mentors?

    I would find it very difficult to find a mentor among people I know. It would be strange to ask, and most people are too busy. Joining organizations is all good and dandy, but the ones I’m a part of have people already over-booked. Why isn’t there a mentor program for adults, like there are for kids?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Interestingly, I just stumbled across a website today that represents a new mentoring initiative. It is called The Mentor+ Project. It doesn’t look like they are quite ready to launch, but I love their vision.

  • Anonymous

    In reply to this post.
    http://mentorfreak.com/2012/02/06/re-five-ways-to-find-a-mentor/
    I started writing it in here, but it became too long.  Let me know what you think.

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  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    Thank you for the practical advice, Daniel. I’m at a place in my career where a mentor would be very advantageous, but have wrestled with how to go about finding and approaching someone to fill that role.

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  • http://www.pamperry.org Pam Perry

    This is great advice. Little different for women and African Americans though. I wrote an article for Preaching Woman magazine.  See http://www.preachingwoman.com/articles_view.asp?articleid=58903&columnid=4495

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  • Guest

    Hi Mr. Hyatt,

    I am 16 years old and contemplating starting  a blog. Besides your site, I read CopyBlogger, Mashable, and Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger. I have heard about the tremendous benefits of finding a mentor to guide and offer advice and feedback on endeavors such as this, especially in the still burgeoning frontier of “new media” involvement. But my current situation is not exactly conducive to my going out and seeking people to take me under their wing. I quit high school because of bullying; I will probably end up “aging out” of the child welfare system, and I am extremely shy and have no friends, and am fearful of the Big Brother implications of Facebook and the rest of the internet. Obviously I don’t have any money of my own to afford expensive marketing packages; I find it difficult and frustrating that many coaches and mentors set their rates far too high for those who would probably be in need of guidance the most. What advice can you or your readers offer for someone like me who is young, well-read, and intelligent but whose life circumstances (that of course I did not choose) leave me with more questions than answers on where and how to pick up and move on — and up?

    I know many people here are going to mention the Bible, and I will probably get some backlash from this, but I am not very religious and tend to view most doctrines as cultural mythology or philosophical principles, written as narratives with characters and plots rather than journalistic nonfictional reportage. Ideological differences aside, I would just like some advice on how to at least manage to find a home for myself and live independently with something that I can channel my interests and skills into… rather than slaving away at a burger joint or (gasp!) going into insurmountable debt at college. Thanks in advance. :-)

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  • Maryselynenekesa

    Thank u for helping me understand how to seek one. l was asking for amentor but l could get disapointed.

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