Mentoring is for Misfits

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Do you ever feel like a misfit? Like you don’t quite fit in with some of the images we see of polished, professional women?

Time and again, I’ve seen women discover they’re not the misfit they thought they were through mentoring. When we connect with a mentor with similar goals, life circumstances, or challenges, we realize that we aren’t alone. The feeling of being understood can be one of the most empowering experiences in our careers and in our lives.

In Psalm 139, David writes, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me… I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” By walking with a mentor, we realize that God gave us a unique set of personality traits, talents, and circumstances that leave us uniquely suited for the purposes He has for us.

If you feel like a ‘misfit’ as you seek to pursue your God-given calling at home and at work, or if you’ve ever feared not finding the right mentor for you, here are a few stories that I hope will encourage you:

IMG_1554I met Liz Bohannan, co-founder of Sseko Designs, in 2011. Sseko Designs is a for-profit company that gives Ugandan women the opportunity to afford a college education. I didn’t think that I could be helpful to Liz as a mentor because my background was in commercial real estate. But God used me to connect Liz to Nordstroms through my relationship with a member of the Nordstrom family, and I recently introduced Liz to an investment banker who is going to be Liz’s mentor in the upcoming 4word Mentor Program. On paper, Liz and I aren’t a great “fit” as mentor and mentee. But God takes ‘misfits’ and uses those relationships for His purposes.

IMG_0944Lopez Lomong is a two-time Olympian and lost boy of Sudan I also met in 2011. After we met at a speaking event, I offered to take him to lunch so I could learn more about his story. The next week, our unlikely mentor relationship began. Most people wouldn’t imagine how a Caucasian, female, Fortune 500 COO could help an Olympic athlete from South Sudan, but God uses us in so many ways! Since that lunch, I have had the privilege of spurring Lopez on to start a Foundation, introducing him to World Vision International (which resulted in a race called Team World Vision for South Sudan that has raised over $1.5 million to date), and encouraging him to write his memoir, “Running for My Life.”

IMG_1533I met Brittany Merrill Underwood when we both served as mentors in Former First Lady Laura Bush’s mentor program for women from Tunisia. Like Liz, Brittany had a vision of providing economic opportunities for women in Uganda, which led her to start The Akola Project. Again, I had no experience in starting an international nonprofit. But through our relationship, Brittany has hired a fabulous employees, Hannah, and a board member for Akola. God used these two ‘misfits’ to find a great leaders and employees for a wonderful organization that is doing so much good in the world.

Maybe these three individuals seem like they have extraordinary stories - and they do. But you have an extraordinary story, too, because our stories are God’s stories. We can be encouraged as followers of Christ because “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). This is true for every woman following Christ!

I too have felt like a misfit, and it took some unlikely mentors in my life to draw out God’s purposes for me and give me the confidence to pursue His will in my life. Mentors like Don Williams, Bob Buford, Norma Coldwell, and Francis Hesselbein - all giants in their industries - were willing to walk alongside me to help me achieve my full potential. I am forever grateful to these leaders who took a ‘misfit’ and helped shape me into the person I am today.

God-sized dreams can feel overwhelming. When we compare ourselves to others, we start feeling like misfits and are discouraged from pursuing those dreams. But walking with a mentor can not only help you feel understood but can also encourage and empower you to pursue the God-given purposes in your life. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. God can use the most unlikely of relationships to fulfill His purposes in you!

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Do you feel called to be a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor? The 4word Mentor Program is currently accepting applications for the upcoming fall session. Visit the Mentor Program website today and submit your online application by September 1!

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