Having a Mentor Moment
Finding a Mentor In Your Goal’s Field
Today: Identify the style of mentoring that could work for you and then make a list of a few people who you would like to mentor you. (Bonus points if you actually ask them!)
How to Find a Mentor:
Organically – Letting God do the matchmaking
I met Debbie when I did a retreat for her church which was located in my city. After that she invited me to be part of a local group of women in ministry, I got to know her even better. Debbie has been a gift to me in so many ways; when I’ve received criticism she is the one who can talk through it with me and put it in perspective. She really “gets” the ministry aspect of what I do and can help me figure out how to balance ministering to the women I love while still serving my family.
I need someone like Debbie to mentor me. She has a couple of years on me – her kids are planning wedding while mine are planning what college courses they are taking next semester – so the wisdom is there. She has keen insight into working in a male dominated industry (the church) and how to play with the big boys (literally).
Stalking – finding someone who is doing what you want to do, and then hanging out with them
When I was first starting out in speaking and writing, I met a woman who was several steps down the path than I was. Jan Coleman was speaking at retreats and writing books – things that I knew I wanted to do when I grew up. Jan was kind enough to let me hang out at some of her events, go with her to a retreat that she was speaking at, give me an outline to one of her book proposals that I could use as a guide, and generally just answer questions that I had about how to do ministry.
Structured – through an organization or business
When my kids were little and I was a stay-at-home mom, one of my main sources of income was doing at-home parties armed only with a rubberstamp kit and a dream. My manager, one level up, was a woman who lived around the corner from me, Patti Johnston. Patti taught me about running a business and devoting a portion of each day to working my work plan.
Several years ago, I had a little company of one where I would go into small businesses and just do whatever needed being done. I loved being a support to women who were making their way in the world and watching them run their businesses up close and personal.
One of my favorite clients, Cynthia, was a well respected local wedding photographer. She was a one-woman show with me coming along sporadically to make appointments and run errands. One of the ways that Cynthia would expand her workforce was to bring in interns to go to weddings with her. They would schlep her bags and carry her equipment, and at the same time get a front row view as to how to stage people for pictures, where to be during the wedding to get the best angles, and all that other insider information that a budding professional photographer would need.
When I first got started in speaking and writing, I would have done anything to just hang out with some of my favorite writers to see what goes on in “A Day In the Life Of…” I knew I could learn so much from these women just by watching them in action. I remember saying about one of my favorite authors, “I would be happy to clean toilets if I could just hang out with her.”
Now, if someone offers to let you clean toilets in order to hang out with them, it might be a good idea to check their motives (unless your dream is to own a house cleaning agency.) However, if there is an opportunity to carry a photographers camera bags to a wedding, do the prep and chop for a cooking teacher, or do the clean up for your favorite painting instructor, I would move a lot of things in my schedule to make that happen.
Most people who have had some success in their field are used to people asking to be mentored – the problem? Mentoring takes time – time that they probably don’t have to spare. But, if you are willing to be at the bottom and help the expert get things done, you are going to learn more, and help more, than buying them a cup of coffee.
There is nothing wrong with having a mentor for hire. In fact, I think it is a sign that you are moving down the road to your dreams to really analyze when it is time to get some paid mentorship on board. I have hired professional mentors in a couple of different areas. I have Rob, my publicity guru who holds my feet to fire and has high standards for every part of my ministry and I can attribute a lot of my growth to his time and effort. It seems expensive to put money into coaching, but I would rather spend a little bit of money upfront to get worthwhile advice, than waste time and money over a period of years going down the wrong path.
Coaching is a huge, industry and there are a lot of people who offer their coaching services (at a significant cost) perhaps a bit prematurely. If you decide to go this route, make sure that you have some great references from others before you plop your hard-earned cash down.
My other piece of advice is don’t hire someone too quickly. If you are just figuring out what you want to do when you grow up, you probably are not at the place for one-on-one mentoring. Instead, read some books or take a class to figure out if you really enjoy stained glass window making, or if you just like the idea of stained glass window making.
There are very few things that can make a bigger difference in weather you succeed in your goal than having a mentor. That is why I want to give you a lot of ideas and avenues to pursue.
Start a list of the people who you would love to mentor you. Once you have thought of some people, start being creative on how that mentoring could work.
– Could you offer to work in their office for a couple of days doing grunt work – but getting to see the inside operation.
– Could you tag along with an event planner to see how she preps a site if event planning is your thing?
– Could you be the assistant Bible study leader to learn more about teaching techniques from someone you admire?
– How about an online relationship? Could you offer to format a newsletter so you can see her process of putting it together?
Spend some time thinking creatively of what you might have to offer to the person you want to be mentored by – time, work, talent, money? Ask them if there is a way you could help. And if you get rejected? That’s why you have a list! Ask the next person. Ask God to bring the right people to mind and just keep asking!
Some of the benefits of having a mentor:
• Shorter Learning Curve, what materials are the best, what books to read etc.
• Referrals and References It is great to have an insider who can give you the tricks of the trade – telling you what classes to take (and what instructors are only trying to sell you on their program)
• A Community of Like-Minded Devotees When Marilyn Hilton, a wonderful non-fiction writer, agreed to have lunch with me, I was thrilled. We sat at a Tex-Mex restaurant, eating our weight in chips and salsa and talking about writers’ conferences and book outlines. But the most valuable thing that Marilyn did for me that day was let me in on a little secret; there was a group of Christian writers that met once a month in one of their homes here our area. Not only did she tell me that this clan existed, but she invited me to join them. I can point to that first meeting as a turning point in my career. Here I was, surrounded by women who not only loved writing, but were actually pursuing it as something more than a hobby. The talked about what was going on in the industry, who was buying books and who wasn’t. What agents were a pleasure to work with, and those who were more of a nightmare. What conferences were well worth the money, and what books and blogs that we absolutely must be reading.
• Been There Done That Advice Why spend all of your time making the same mistakes and going down the same rabbit trails as other people in your chosen passion. Avoid duplicating the same mistakes that others have made by asking great questions: “Is there anything that you wish you hadn’t done in the first year of pursuing photography? A class that was a waste of time? Buying equiptment that was overprices and unnecessary?
• Worthy Feedback I know your mom thinks you are the next Annie Leibovitz or Ansel Adams, but it might be better to listen to a person who is actually making a living taking pictures to get your feedback from. A mentor can let you know whether there is something wrong that an untrained eye may miss.
Tell us in the comment below what your style of mentoring is, if you have a mentor and if you do not did you/will you ask a person from your list to be your mentor. you could win 2 of Cindi McMenamin’s books.