Finding a Mentor to Maximize Growth, Performance, and Confidence
21st March, 2022
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You can do a lot on your own. You can do even more with the support of a great mentor. Episode 34 of the Faithful on the Clock podcast tells you why mentors typically say no, where to find them, and what to look for.
[00:38] - Professionals routinely told me what a difference mentors made, and I wanted one myself. You deserve to have someone who can guide you, not just for your career, but for your mental health.
[02:07] - There are four reasons a mentor might turn you away: 1) They’re busy, 2) you don’t give them proof of ROI, 3) you’re arrogant rather than confident, and 4) they’re not sure of what they can offer.
[03:38] - Start your search for a mentor by cultivating the right attitude, using the four reasons mentors turn people away to pull you in a proper direction.
[04:13] - One place to start is by looking at influential people in your industry, but most people know about those folks, so competition is fierce.
[04:51] - A potentially more fruitful place to find a mentor is right within your own family and community. People close to home know what you’re experiencing and usually can more easily invest time in you for the long haul.
[06:15] - Make sure you’re compatible with your mentor, because you’ll need to spend tons of hours with them. That should be enjoyable!
[06:56] - A good mentor should be genuinely positive because they are helping develop you as a human being, not just on technicals.
[08:28] - Although it’s ideal that a mentor be a Christian, it’s possible that you could lead them to God. If they meet all other criteria, do not be afraid to start your partnership and get mutual mentorship going in your relationship.
[09:48] - No one is perfect, so if a potential mentor doesn’t check all the boxes, it’s fine to have more than one mentor at a time to get what you need.
[10:18] - Don’t be intimidated! Most professionals, especially once they’ve already reached the top, want to mentor and pass on a true legacy.
I wanted to do an episode on mentorship because of what other leaders have said, as well as my own experience feeling like I needed guidance.
Mentors often turn people down for four reasons: 1) they are busy 2) they don’t have proof of a good ROI, 3) they think the potential mentee is arrogant rather than confident, and 4) they are not sure they have anything to offer. Having the right attitude and preparing well can overcome these common obstacles.
Because mentoring requires a close connection and serious time commitment, and because “big shot” people often have so many individuals vying for their attention, you might have better luck finding a good mentor close to home in your family or local community.
The mentor you work with should have good credentials, but it’s just as important that they have a personality that is compatible with yours.
Good mentors are genuinely positive and have good integrity. This means they have a grounded faith in your ability to succeed and that they demonstrate behaviors such as adherence to truth.
Although it’s ideal that your mentor be a Christian, it is OK to work with a nonbeliever so long as they consistently behave in an upright way–many good people simply have not heard the Good News. You could lead them to get saved over the course of your relationship.
Don’t be intimidated in your mentor search. Most people really do want to mentor as a way of building and leaving legacy.
Familiarize yourself with the common signs of good integrity. Learn how to discern the difference between toxic positivity and genuine positivity.
Figure out specifically what you need your mentor to be/do for you.
Search for a mentor who can spend time consistently with you and who shows both genuine positivity and good integrity.
What’s coming up next:
In Episode 35 of the podcast, we’ll cover different ways to approach scheduling. We’ll help you find a time management strategy that fits your personality and lifestyle so you can get more done.
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Another week has flown by listeners, and I, Wanda Thibodeaux, am back with another episode of the Faithful on the Clock podcast. Our goal with the show is always to get your work and faith aligned, so today I wanted to talk about finding a great mentor. You know, someone who can guide you, support you, that can make such a big difference in how you approach your job, your career, even your time at home. So let’s not waste any time here–here we go!
All right, everyone. So I just want to share some of my experience to get us started off. And that’s just that, you know, I’ve been specializing in business writing…oh, what, I guess half a dozen years now. And over and over again, as I’m talking to these executives and professionals, these entrepreneurs, over and over again they kept pointing to the fact that they had mentors to get them through, not just for, you know, expertise kinds of stuff, but like, the really hard, emotional challenges that come with leadership. And thinking back, man, these past few years, I didn’t have a mentor for a long time, and it felt so draining. You know, I’m trying to do new things, I wasn’t quite sure of what my strengths or weaknesses were, and so the one thing I kept thinking was that I just needed somebody to…not tell me what to do, per se, but just somebody who could give me encouragement along the way. And I think that’s all really any of us are searching for. And if you’re out there today and you’re where I was, you don’t have anybody to show you the ropes or get behind you, then I just want to challenge you to go connect with someone. Because you honestly do not deserve to have to figure everything out alone, you don’t deserve to rely just on your internal validation to get you through the day. You know, don’t just do it for your career. Do it because you genuinely should go through your work feeling supported and with the chance to maintain good mental health.
Now, that being said, there are four reasons mentors might say no to you when you go looking, OK? The first reason is, they’re just busy. You know, they’ve got ton going on and they just don’t have the bandwidth to work with you. It’s nothing personal. Secondly, a lot of people, they ask someone to mentor but then they don’t give that potential mentor any proof at all that it’s not going to be a waste of time. If you think of a mentor like an investor, well, an investor’s gonna want to know they’re going to get a return on the investment, that if they nurture you, that you’ll grow or produce something good. They absolutely want to know that they’ll get some sense of being fulfilled along the way for that. Then thirdly, they might encounter someone who feels entitled. Confidence, that’s fine, they like to see that. But arrogance is another. They don’t want to see that because a lot of the time, egotistical people, the people who lean to the narcissistic side, they’re just really hard to coach. They struggle to listen and take advice. And then lastly, I know you might see the mentor as someone who’s made it, who really knows what they’re doing. But just because someone is successful or has achieved doesn’t mean they have great self-esteem or are confident themselves. And sometimes people just aren’t sure whether they can contribute something or whether they really can help you, especially if they’ve never mentored before.
And I outline these points because they influence how you approach someone. The best results I’ve seen come when you’re really clear about the time commitment, you’re clear about what your goals are and what their role is. It pays off if you approach a potential mentor with a little bit of humility and respect and you tell them exactly why they’re the right person for the job. So before you do anything else, get your head in the game, get your attitude straight. That alone is 90 percent of the battle, I promise you.
But let’s assume you’ve done that. Where do you search? Well, one option is to find people who are influential in the field you’re in. You can find those kinds of people from books or papers you read, or just by networking a little through social media. We usually like trying to make these connections because we know the person’s knowledgeable and that they probably can propel us fast. And if you can get them to answer you, well great. But my experience is, that’s pretty hard to do. Because if you know about them, the odds are pretty good that tons of other people will, too. You’re gonna have a lot of competition.
So here is my insider tip. I will not tell you NOT to reach out to people who are more well-known. You never know, you might get lucky. But most of the time, you know who the best mentors are? It’s the people who are going to be able to spend a lot of hours with you over the long haul. It’s the people you’ve already built some trust and have a background with. And who are these people? They’re your extended family members, people you know right in your own community. They know what you’re up against because they’re right there living it right beside you and they’ve already been there, done that. And don’t think they don’t have just as much to teach as the people who’ve got their name on the books or who tour the country. My father-in-law for example, he worked for GM all his life. He was a pipefitter for more than 30 years. And you cannot tell me that he does not know that business or that company. But he’s also somebody, you know, I’ve always been able to just sit down and talk to him like an equal. And in fact, what do you hear sometimes when people describe their mentors? They say, “Oh, he’s been like a second father, or she’s been like a second mother.” Well, mothers and fathers, they’re deep in it, OK? So you want to find someone who can have that depth, that long-term commitment. If someone famous can offer that, fantastic, but my opinion is that you’ll have good luck starting close to home.
So let’s say you’re looking for a mentor, what traits should you be concerned with? Absolutely, go ahead and check their credentials, their history. But I’m telling you, some of the most credentialed people I’ve ever met have been the biggest jerks. So even though you of course want someone who knows the industry, who can guide you in that, I’d look for someone you’re really compatible with. That’s gonna be a little different for everybody, you know, maybe you like a lot of humor and I’d prefer someone more serious, for example. But make sure this is someone you can more than tolerate, OK? Because you’re gonna have to spend a lot of hours with this person, and you want that to feel good, you want it relaxed.
Within this, I think it’s important that your mentor be relatively positive. And when I say positive, I mean sincerely, groundedly positive, not the toxic positivity where the person doesn’t really acknowledge difficulties and tries to paint everything as being totally fine. They have to be realistic but also have faith in you and the ability for things to succeed. And then look at their behavior to see if they have genuine integrity. Because this person, remember, they’re not just guiding you in processes or information. They’re guiding you on how to be as a human being. And the saying goes, you become the company you keep. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.”
So then what are some signs of integrity that are easy to spot? You know, people with integrity, they demonstrate a lot of what a virtuous Christian should be. They tell the truth instead of lying, they’re really clear in what they say. They can learn humbly instead of being defensive, they can apologize and take accountability if they screw up. And you should see them being consistent in what they do and say, too, they’re not just wishy washy or unreliable. They don’t brag, and if they compromise to keep the peace or move forward, they don’t do it in a way that makes you totally question their values. They don’t just turn directions on a whim or to impress somebody.
All that said, you might ask, well, is it OK for my mentor to be an unbeliever? And honestly, this is really a gray area for me. Because on the one hand, like we’ve said, bad company can corrupt. But on the other hand, you can take scripture like 1 Corinthians 7, that talks about wives and husbands and belief and unbelief in the marriage context. But the larger idea you see in verse 16 is, you don’t know if you’re going to save someone else. So if you just apply that idea to relationships more broadly, I think the lesson is that we never really know if God puts us in someone’s life to be part of their salvation story or not. And in that regard, you know, if you’ve got someone, they act with good integrity, they’re positive, they know their industry and care about you, but they just don’t know the Father yet, I’d say go ahead. You very well could end up as their spiritual mentor as they mentor you in other areas of your life. That’s just a demonstration, you know, relationships, they’re supposed to be reciprocal like that. Or at least, I think they should be. But I do think it would be fantastic if you had someone who really can support you spiritually, too, because that ties into so much of life. That to me would be the ideal.
The next thing is, it is 100 percent fine to have multiple mentors at the same time. It is a truly rare thing for one person to be everything to somebody. Nobody’s perfect. And I think it’s healthier if you’re getting lots of good perspectives and support from lots of different directions. So if you’re looking to ask someone to mentor you and they’re a little weak somewhere, don’t worry about it. Just go ahead and find another person who can fill that gap for you.
To close this off, I just want to tell you, please, please do not be intimidated. Even if you’re sending out that email or making a call to someone with really heavy clout, they are just a person, the same as you. And just like I’ve heard leaders say they need mentors, I’ve heard the mentors say they want to mentor. They want to give back. They want to feel like they’re doing something meaningful by passing on what they’ve learned or helping someone discover what they can do. Especially if they’re at the top, you know, they’ve already got the money, the fame or whatever, but that’s when that deeper need to leave a real legacy kicks in and people really get serious about wanting to make a difference one-on-one with people. So just be honest, be transparent, and remember everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time. You’ll be just fine.
Let’s go ahead and close out with a prayer.
Lord, there’s no better mentor than you. But we also know we’re designed to get some help from each other along the way. So for the people out there who don’t have anyone to lean on yet, I pray that you’ll bring them someone–or even more than one someone–into their life who can make a difference. Let that person reflect you and uplift the person they mentor each and every day. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
That’s a wrap for this week. Next week will be Episode 35 already, and for that show, we’re going to chat about different ways to approach scheduling. I’m gonna outline some perspectives, some options for how to view your calendar so you can find the time management strategy that feels good for you. Do not forget, you can sign up to support the show at Patreon.com/faithfulontheclock. Please consider that, because it pays for the website host, editing tools, all that good stuff. Plus, it gives you a nifty little way to connect with me and keep tabs on how I’m representing the show. So go on, do that, I will see you here next week, and until then, be blessed.
Faithful on the Clock is a podcast meant to get your Christian faith and work aligned. You won’t find mantras or hacks here--just scripture-based insights to help you grow yourself, your company, and your relationship with God. If you want out of the worldly hamster wheel and want to work with purpose, then this is the show for you. Hosted by freelance business writer Wanda Thibodeaux.
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer based in Eagan, MN. Since 2006, she has worked with a full range of clients to create website landing pages, product descriptions, articles, professional letters, and other content. She also served as a daily columnist at Inc.com for three years, where she specialized in content on business leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and behavior.
Currently, Thibodeaux accepts clients through her website, Takingdictation.com. She is especially interested in motivational psychology, self-development, and mental health.