How to Pick a Mentor

Because the US Navy has really been pushing the mentorship program over the last few years, and because I have become a mentor to six young sailors, more than one person has come to me with the question: Who should I pick to be my mentor? This hasn’t happened as often in my Christian circles, but I believe these rules apply and would apply to you if you are looking for a mentor.

Please understand that women need mentors too, but since my ministry is to male sailors, I use the word “he” and not “he/she” for continuity. Without further ado, here are my simple rules of how to pick a mentor:

1. Does he have what you want?
Find the guy with the stuff you’re after. If you want to get better at being a sailor, find a good sailor. If you want to be a better husband, find a guy who’s a good husband. If you want to be a better preacher, find a good preacher. It does you no good to pick a mentor that doesn’t succeed in the area you want. If you want to be a good preacher, don’t find a guy who is a good mechanic. One caveat to this is that yes, a good preacher may also be a good husband, therefore you may find that multiple things you want reside in the same guy. That’s fine, just make sure that you’re picking a guy for your primary areas of need.

2. Is he a teacher?
It won’t do you much good if you pick a mentor who is successful but doesn’t know how to teach you to be successful. I had a mentor even as recently as 18 months ago who was an outstanding sailor. He had just gotten picked up to be an officer, so he had what I wanted at the time. But he didn’t know how to teach me to be as successful as he was. Our relationship ended a few months after it had begun. It just wasn’t working.

3. Is he a good leader?
Your job as a protégé is to be a follower, so you need to know that you have a good leader in your mentor. My current Navy mentor is an outstanding leader. I have learned more in the last year than I’ve known in a dozen previous years about leading in the Navy. Since I want to be a leader, I found a great leader. Even though right now I am the follower, I would have always stayed a follower if that is what I had picked as a mentor. If you want to lead, find a leader.

One other thing I might mention is that your mentor must be the same gender as you. So if you are a woman, you need a woman for a mentor. If you are a man, you’ll need a man. This should go without saying, but I feel I need to speak the words.

And that’s about it. Mentorship is fluid. Just find what you want and run with it!

Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you pick him?

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