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Mentoring relationships possess the ability to unlock the greatest of potential in all of us. Through the vulnerability, trust, cooperation, etc.  between mentor and mentee, both sides enter into a deep connection that can have radical impacts on their lives.

I have been fortunate to have many mentors in the various scopes and areas of my life. Rather it be a spiritual director, manager, teacher, senior member in my fraternity, or grandpa, each of these individuals worked and molded me into a better form of myself.

I am thankful each and every day for the opportunity to have received their instruction, advice, and encouragement.

I hope and pray that every person that reads this has or will experience a relationship like this. I wish to share with you my experiences of being a mentee and how I (and you) can reap the most fruit from any type of mentorship.

Get Real, Get Vulnerable in a Mentorship

mentorship thinking at the tableBefore beginning any endeavor especially mentorship, a mentee must ask themselves, “What am I looking or hoping for in this relationship? Am I hoping to learn some new skill or strength a lifelong weakness?”

Many friends and other young adults I knew sought out experienced mentors in different career paths that interested them with a desire to learn what that path is truly like.

The difficulty of this step involves looking inward and identifying what our weaknesses, fears, and concerns are. Not only that, we don’t want to reveal this to a person, who from our current perspective is an expert in this area.

It seems highly illogical.

The downside, though, of not knowing the why is developing a relationship that doesn’t better the other person and just floats aimlessly.

Bottom Line: You should be able to verbalize what you are hoping to get out of the relationship, because chances are that your mentor will ask you that question.

Recommendation: Take time to reflect and journal on aspects of your life you want to improve. Ask yourself why you want to improve them. What obstacles (internal/external) may stop my mentor and me from realizing these goals?

Be Picky, But Be Realistic in a Mentorship

mentorship truckKnowing the why is huge and a positive first step. Aspiring mentees must next select a mentor. Trust is THE most crucial aspect in any mentorship and without growth is not possible.

While the level of trust depends a lot on the why of the mentee, a solid level of implicit trust must be present. While studying for my business degree, I knew professors with whom I could be very honest when I didn’t understand what I considered to be a very basic aspects of the course.

At the same, don’t be afraid to approach the expert, the boss, the professor that scares you or whom you may consider to be the last person who could help you.

I had a business professor, who taught the hardest class for my degree. Everyone feared the class and he was very demanding and gave some of the most difficult tests I’ve ever taken.

With that in mind I was shocked, stunned, and amazed when I saw him one morning at daily Catholic Mass during lent. I unfairly judged him and labeled him, but thankfully he we both were apparently called to go to Mass that morning.  

He has become one of the most positive influences in my life and I’m frightened to think I almost lost this relationship based on my faulty judgement.

Bottom Line: Depending on the type of mentorship you are seeking, very high levels of trust are necessary for it to be a healthy relationship. Be wary, though, that fear of revealing a fault or weakness is preventing you from making a decision.

Recommendation: Spend time in prayer and reflection, but ultimately go with your instinct. Work slowly with mentors you may not know as well to build trust.

Aspiring mentees must next select a #mentor. Click To Tweet

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan in a Mentorship

John Wooden once remarked, “Those who fail to prepare can prepare to fail.”

The same applies to mentorship. Taking into account the why and the who, work with your mentor to establish touch-bases and goals for one another.

Photo credit: DannyBen / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: DannyBen / Foter / CC BY-SA

This is where many mentees, including myself, often fail. It feels awkward and scary to drive a relationship with someone, who is perceived in the superior role in this context. What mentees sometimes fail to see is that they are the ones who suffer when they fail to do this.

In college I participated in a mentorship program facilitated by the school of business which assigned students and professionals with matching profiles. My mentor was a senior recruiter for a very reputable company and had professional experience in Germany, where I hope to work one day.

Our first meeting went well. We got to know one another and It was valuable to me to hear her career story.

Unfortunately, I did not set up a concrete follow-up plan. Very quickly, a few days turned into a week, a month, three months and a second meeting never materialized. While we remain acquaintances and I benefited from our discussions, I regret not seeing it through.

Mentorships can turn into scenarios of nothing-lost-and-nothing-gained, especially for mentees.

On the same note, too much structure can restrict a relationship and prevent organic growth from occurring. Just by meeting regularly and sticking to plans does not guarantee results. Doing the work must be coupled with the openness to risk of failure.

Bottom Line: Mentees – Be flexible and understanding to your mentor’s schedule, but don’t be passive to the point that nothing ever occurs.

Recommendation: Set up a fixed meeting schedule with random or occasional touch-bases and quickly reschedule any cancellations.

Don't let mentorships turn into scenarios of nothing-lost-and-nothing-gained. Click To Tweet

Take The Risk

I truly hope this provides some groundwork to start a mentoring relationship. Remember also that these lessons apply no matter your state of life, age, location, etc. Mentors can truly change your life.

And realize that more is at stake than a career.  Your ability to learn the ins and outs of your profession is directly connected with your ability to serve God.  Since we know that in everything we do, we should do it as unto the Lord, our work by definition is our worship to God.

So finding a mentor can be a defining moment in your ability to honor Him.

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