Dear Mentor: How do I find a mentor?

Dear Mentor,

How do I find a mentor who can address the kinds of questions I have as a Christian woman in my field of study (business)? I don’t know any women believers who are working in my field.

From Dorothy Boorse

I have had this experience in science as well, in part because science has been dominated by men. My observation is that it isn’t just a lack of Christian women, it’s a lack of women period and most of the women who are in my life are younger and less confident than I am.

I personally would have liked a strong Christian, female mentor, farther along the road than I am, accessible to me, and in a similar field to my own. I have not had much of that. So one thing that I have done has been to have “half-mentors,” that is, Christian women in a different field with similar jobs, or men who can help with part of the mentoring but not all of it. For me that means I am in a prayer group of women academics from a wide range of fields. These people not only form a spiritual community but are also a place where I can get advice (or give it) on childcare, negotiating with an employed spouse, sheer survival, and navigating through an academic life.

Then I have a group of colleagues that are in a network of Christians in the same or similar field who are not local and who are almost all men, but who help with some of the other things I need. I have a retired male mentor who has helped me mightily with very concrete advice about professional advancement and a male mentor who I ask about things of an interdisciplinary nature. That still does not really give me a strong woman mentor who actually does anything quite like what I do and is also a Christian. I have had some female mentors who have been administrators. However, most have either not been married, or have not had children when they were dealing with their stressful jobs, a factor very relevant in my life.

In business, my best advice might be to cobble together a group of people who help you with different parts of what you need. You might ask at your church whether there are professional women, whether they are in business or not, who can form a network in some way. And you may find male mentors who will help you advance professionally or who will help you deal with ethical issues in the workplace. I would also look at civic organizations like Rotary, depending on what level of business you are in. I have been an invited speaker at our local Rotary and was impressed by the number of Christians. There were also several women present.

One thing I have personally found is that sometimes the people who are most likely to have good information are too busy for me. In academics, it is often people near retirement or just retired who can invest the most time. You might find that a person who is not a powerhouse person in business will be able to help you figure out how to get where you need to go, even if your goals are higher.

Finally, I am sure there are Christian business professional organizations. You might be able to find women through them. If not, you might be able to get at least some of your mentoring needs met there.

From Sylvia Chen

Do you know any Christian men in your field? In my field (law) there are very few Christian women, so I have turned mostly to Christian men for ethical and spiritual guidance on a more frequent basis (probably two to four times a year). Over the years, both Christian and Jewish men in my field have mentored me, and their piercing questions, personal testimonies, and professional support have helped me make wise choices along my career path.

Can you attend Christian conferences related to your field? Most of my career heroes are older Christian women I have re-met every year at the annual Christian Legal Society conference. I pay my own way to attend, and I justify it as an investment in my career and spiritual growth. Plus, these conferences sometimes provide an opportunity to mentor younger Christian women — perhaps students in your field.

Are there wise women at your church? They may not understand your particular career situation, but they may be adept at either generalizing or analogizing your situation to a Biblical passage. I have been given startling advice by an older woman at church. (Actually, I would characterize it as, “She made an interesting observation about my situation, which I later converted to advice.”) My difficulty at first was believing that this woman, who gave up her teaching career when she became a mother, would have anything relevant to say to me about my law career. But I have been humbled. Now, I seek her reaction once or twice a year when I am in an emotionally charged situation and could use a completely fresh, Biblical outlook.

Good mentors are a rare find. I haven’t found any really close mentors who fill my own demographic niche, but with my male counterparts and the community of Christian women heroes and church co-laborers, I feel that God has provided me with all the resources that I need.

InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries is home to the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN) which has a mentoring program. If you are interested in mentoring or being mentored in your academic field, read more at

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