One fall while working at a college I had a student approach me in my office and say, “Will you be my mentor?”
He wasn’t doing this for a class or as an assignment. He just really wanted a mentor.
I had been asked that question once before and I had lunch with the guy one time and that was the end of it. What I thought when he asked me was that I had no idea what he was looking for. I have four kids, a full-time job, and am in school. I don’t have time to go sit down and have coffee once a week with this guy. I did not have the wisdom to ask, “What are you looking for in a mentor?” or “What are your goals for a mentoring relationship?” I simply said, “Yes, sure.”
Then we never met up to do the official “mentor” thing and that relationship fizzled out.
I’ve since understood that having a mentor is a little bit of what this student did, and a little bit of something else. If you want a mentor:
- Seek mentors out
- Observe them
- Find out what is important to them
- Recognize that mentors come and go
You have to seek them out. However, mentorship is not like prom. You do not have to write their name on an overpass and ask them to be your mentor. You don’t have to sit down with them over food or coffee once a week and have a conversation, although that is a great way to get to know someone. There is no secret mentor dating site that can connect you with the “right” mentor. My mentors did not have the time for coffee. I watch them, listen to how they communicate, what they do in situations, what they talk about most. My mentors do not have time for another meeting, but I take advantage of the moments that I have to observe them.
These are some of my mentors through the years and what I have learned.
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