Over the years, countless men and women have expressed their deep desire for a mentor to guide them on their personal or professional journey, yet only a small percentage actually have one. The whole idea of mentors is appealing and challenging. We long for that guru who can unlock for us the secrets of business and life.
Sometimes it seems we like the idea of having a mentor more than actually seeking one. Do you know what you need or want in a mentor? Can you articulate those characteristics? Here are seven qualities every protégé needs in a mentor:
1. Someone who is trustworthy. This is ground zero for any mentoring relationship. Do you have confidence in the person you are seeking guidance from? Do you believe that person has your best interest in mind? As a new disciple, Paul knew the path God had called him to travel so he attempted to connect with the Apostles Jesus had appointed. However, those men were skeptical about his conversion from a persecutor of Christ-followers to a champion for Christ. Barnabas was the only one who vouched for him. Barnabas proved his trustworthiness as he guided Paul in his new ministry.
2. Someone with wisdom and life experience. A young king-in-waiting, Solomon needed training and experience. As only the third king of Israel, there wasn’t much precedent. His father David and the prophet Nathan may have been the only ones who understood what God required (2 Samuel 7:1-17). What a gift David must have become to Solomon before he died, as he prepared his head and heart to lead the nation of Israel (1 Kings 2:1-12). We could all use someone who has already “been there and done that,” someone who can share their personal insights about business and life.
3. Someone who believes in you. Every marketplace warrior takes at least a few heavy blows to their identity and dreams. The world can be cruel and exacting, wearing down your self-confidence. Everyone needs at least one person who is farther down the road, yet takes time to look back, reach out their hand and beckon to you: “Keep going”, “You can do it”, “I know you have what it takes.” I am reminded of Paul’s words to his protégé’ Timothy. “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7)
4. Someone who actively listens and takes interest in your success. As excited as you might be about spending time with a person you admire and respect, do not waste your time with someone who is not willing or able to truly engage in your life. Read their book, listen to their message and learn what you can from a distance, but accept that not everyone will be a mentor to you. Mentors care enough to listen to your thoughts and pay attention to your path. Mentors are champions for their protégés.
5. Someone who will share about defeats as well as victories. We need mentors, not pundits, experts who just sit back and authoritatively spout out knowledge. Mentors invite their protégés into their world, so the mentee can observe how the guide responds to success . . . and failure. Mentors tear down image barriers and intentionally allow transparency.
6. Someone who cares enough to tell you the truth. Few people want to hear hard truths about their blind spots or weaknesses. Think of all of the ditches we fall into because, either no one had the courage or the compassion to tell us the truth. I wonder where Moses would have landed if his father in law, Jethro, had not sat down with him and told him what no one else did: “The thing you are doing is not good, you will surely wear out . . .” (Exodus 18:17b-18a)
7. Someone who will invest in your future. Paul told the Christians in Corinth that he would “most gladly spend and be expended for their souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15). He was more than invested. He was willing to deplete himself for them. Paul heard the stories of how Jesus poured into the disciples, plus he had Barnabas’ example, so he was committed to giving himself fully to others. We desperately need to find that person . . . and then become that person for someone else!
Remember, mentors are just humans and we should not expect them to supply our every need—only God can do that. However, choosing a mentor(s) is a worthy task and these seven qualities are a great place to begin praying.
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, I am burdened for so many outstanding professionals who are trying to figure everything out about life and business on their own. I pray that you would stir up a whole new revolution of men and women in the marketplace who are seeking out mentors and at the same time committing themselves to becoming mentors.
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Paul, the Apostle