Mentorship is one of the fastest and most effective ways to grow and could be one of the biggest keys to your success, both professionally and personally. It certainly seems to be a hot topic lately, too! I’ve heard the idea mentioned in almost every circle I run in. My mom friends talk about a mentor who has parented the age or stage they’re in now. My running friends talk about the need for a coach to help them reach a new goal. My husband is looking for the right person to give guidance with leading a business and a home and finding the balance in between. I’ve been beyond blessed to have both a professional and a spiritual mentor and now can’t imagine doing life without one.

Simply put, a mentor is a role model. They are more a coach than a counselor who draws from wisdom and experience more than knowledge or education. A great mentor-mentee relationship will be one built on trust and respect. Your mentor should be a sounding board for concerns or issues and someone who will give you support and encouragement. They will celebrate when you’re winning and cheer you on when you’re not, but also won’t be afraid to tell you the tough stuff in order to make you better. A mentor can be a person who helps you through a situation or a season.

When looking for the right mentor, there are several things to keep in mind.

First, PRAY. This is a no-brainer, but definitely worth mentioning. God is for you and will surround you with the right people. Ask Him!

Second, identify where you are and where you want to be. What is most important to you right now? Are you looking for career advancement or to hone and strengthen your leadership skills? Maybe you’re struggling to balance your professional life with your personal life, or need accountability with your walk as you follow Jesus.

Next, look for someone who has twice as much experience as you. That could be a former boss, a colleague, or even an affiliate from a different church or organization. You could also look for someone who is just a few steps ahead of you or where you’d like to be in 5-10 years. In many cases mentoring happens without the formal label of “mentor” so don’t look past the people who are already invested in your life and encouraging you along the way. Make a list of 2 or 3 people to begin with.

Now that you’ve identified a few potential mentors, follow through with an ask. Start small and build from there. Send an email question with the intention of starting an on-going interaction. (A phone call is certainly an option too! Take into consideration your best communication practices and the preferences of the individual you are approaching.) You will be able to tell quickly who has the time and margin to be able to make the investment you’re looking for. Next, ask to have a conversation in person, but be prepared with an issue or challenge you’d like insight on. You want to bring something to the table so show up with specific questions or the one thing you need guidance with. A great mentor will want to share from their experience and the exchange will be a blessing for you both!

What’s next? Follow through and circle back! Share the specifics with how your mentor’s guidance helped – “This is what you suggested. This is what I did. Here are the results.”

Remember, relationships always win and having followed these easy steps, hopefully you’ve begun what will be a long and meaningful one for both of you.

Now, pay it forward! There is someone coming behind you who would be blessed by your wisdom, experience and encouragement.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)