In a recent survey of potential mentees, I asked the question:

“What do you look for in a mentor?”

The answers I received were as varied as the people who responded, but one thing surprised me. Not because it was there–but because it wasn’t there.

Not a single survey indicated that “expertise” was important. I am not certain if they assumed there was already a level of expertise, or if expertise is secondary.

My informal survey reveals that mentees look for the following characteristics:

  • relatable
  • available
  • authentic
  • understanding
  • inspiring
  • encouraging
  • holds me accountable
  • advocates for me

It’s a list that comes down to two factors: love and trust. Few people want to take time to process the love and trust that result in friendship.

In our present, fast-paced world, we want Google-paced answers.

With all the data available to us, nearly every time we hit the enter key at Google, we are asking for a mentor – FAST. We are by-passing the love, because we trust Google.

“Please, Google, find me an answer for this paper cut?!” and then we discover we may be dying, or have grounds for a workers’ comp claim. When a true friend might have just handed you a tiny bandage and told you to soldier on. Suck it up, Buttercup!

As wonderful and efficient it is, Google, is no substitute for friends. That still only comes from humans. In practice, seeking help from online sources actually circumvents the process of developing love and trust with a human who may have practical, real life answers.

A cool, ancient example:

1 Samuel 18:1 says: “By the time David had finished reporting to Saul, Jonathan was deeply impressed with David—an immediate bond was forged between them. He became totally committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate and friend.”

Jonathan and David’s story of brave friendship begins with Step One: Observation. Jonathan observed. That’s how they initially forged a bond. Further scripture indicates they to Step Two: Shared experiences. The friendship deepened through the process of shared experiences and dark times, and cherished trust.

Who might be observing you right now?

Older women, raised in a slower pace with fewer digital distractions, are experts at processing because there once was no other choice. They cherish their old, human ways and time-tested friendships. They have seen dark times together and they, too, have a cherished trust. They have “been there” and can say “me too!” They have the kind of a story where dark days turned out to have a truth to learn and encouragement to share. We call that a silver-lining story.

Someone may be observing you as a prospective friend or mentor now. There is something intrinsic that fits when she listens to you talk. She wants to hear more of your story, perhaps your silver-lining story. How do you grow that conversation organically? Could it be as simple as offering to buy her a cup of coffee?

Would it be easier to try if you knew you didn’t have to be an expert?

Check out the Process of Friendship/Mentorship chart below:

Step One: Observation includes the first three traits: relatable, available and authentic. Those traits lead to

Step Two: Coffee (a shared experience), which could result in understanding, inspiration and encouragement. Those characteristics are foundational for

Step Three: On-going Mentorship  which is where the accountability and advocacy happens.

If you are reading this, I am going to assume you are relatable, or you would never have been attracted to this article. What if the next step for you was to just make yourself available?

How does availability look for you? Could you share your technique or ideas with my readers?


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