Being that this is a blog seeking to inspire people to become Mentors it is highly unusual for me to be posting about how to decline such a request. But of course in life we have many responsibilities and we may perhaps have many mentees already on our schedule. This may sometimes force us to have to politely defer taking on someone new. Speaking for myself as the author of this blog I can share that I've been honored with many requests from readers to become their mentors. Unfortunately it is impossible for me to take on anyone additional at this time. But it made me think about how to defer in a productive way - a way in which ensures to the greatest extent possible that the mentoring request was satisfied in some way.
Here's my approach which is similar to another, more general post from this blog entitled "7 Steps on how to say "no" and have people still like you". There are two parts to it:
- I like to first understand if this person has tried to find a mentor before asking me. If I am the very first person they've asked I discuss what steps they can take to continue to find a mentor on their own. I get them started on building a list of possible candidates and guide them on various approaches to take.
- I ask this person questions about why they want to be mentored, what they hope to get out of mentoring and what type of person they'd feel comfortable with so that I can refer them to folks that I know. Introducing people to each other (whether it ultimately works out from a mentoring perspective or not) is one of the best and most powerful things you can do for someone because at the very least it increases their network. And if you've been reading my blog you know how important networking is to finding a new mentor or even finding a new opportunity.
The idea behind the above approach is that even if you have to decline a mentoring request it's critical to find a way to help that person stay on the road to mentoring.
One thing I know for sure after being forced to decline several requests is that the world needs more mentors! If you are reading this and aren't actively mentoring now please consider becoming a mentor and/or encouraging your company, community center, place of worship, etc. to start a mentoring program.
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” - Plutarch