By Mitch Reinholt
Several people told teenage-me to find a mentor. “It will be one of the most valuable things you can do as you grow up.” At the time, mentorship sounded awkward and forced; an authority figure who would highlight all the things I did wrong. Basically, a parent on steroids.
Like many young adults, I thought I had the answers to life’s challenges. However, my perspective has changed dramatically.
What is a mentor?
Every mentorship looks different. But the journey begins when you seek someone you can trust — someone with more wisdom and life experience. Ideally, the person should be able to meet consistently. He or she should be willing to help you set goals and hold you accountable.
Ideally, you’ll relate and look up to your mentor.
I had the privilege of partnering with a mentor a few years ago. Our relationship began when we worked together at an optometry practice. About 10 years older than me, he has his own practice now. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My mentorship story
At first, I just thought he was a good doctor and a pretty cool guy. We worked in the same office for a while and then he left for another business opportunity. A few months later, he asked if I would want to get lunch. I wasn’t sure what he wanted to discuss, but I agreed.
During our lunch, he asked questions exclusively about me. As a father of four kids, he wanted to hear about my life, family, professional aspirations, and spiritual life. I usually don’t like to talk about myself, but somehow the way he engaged made me feel comfortable and safe.
I left rejuvenated and clearer about who I was and what I wanted to do in life.
We met for lunch throughout the following months. Each time I noticed his intentional questions. I still did most of the talking, which felt more comfortable each time we met. I also observed that he would share his perspective and stories. And I realized his agenda was to invest in me, get to know me, and offer encouragement and wisdom.
We now meet monthly for breakfast. Over the years he’s offered professional advice by guiding me through decisions similar to what he encountered earlier in his career.
We pray together, and he challenges me spiritually. He talks me through conflicts with friends and family, helping me see things from different perspectives. He shares experiences that help me set a framework for personal and professional goals I don’t think I would’ve recognized on my own.
My mentor continues to help me develop into a better, wiser person. We all have friends, family, and colleagues who can offer advice. However, a mentor is different.
How to find your mentor
An advantage of having a mentor: He or she isn’t intimately involved in many aspects of your life. This relative distance gives them a unique perspective. As it turns out, those wise people were right; finding a mentor is one of the best things I’ve done. My advice for finding a mentor:
- Consider and pray specifically for a person who could serve as your mentor. Look for someone you admire professionally, personally, or both.
- When a potential mentor arrives in your life, approach him or her and be specific about the relationship you’d like to foster.
- Don’t take it personally if it’s not the right person or the right time.
- When you find the right person, and he or she agrees, be open to their feedback and life experiences. Being held accountable can be tough, but it’s worth it in the end.
I was lucky; my mentor came to me. However, once you have a person in mind, you should take the risk and ask. A simple lunch could be the beginning of an amazing journey that ends in a better you. What do you have to lose?
Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you connect?