The Importance of a Mentor

There are many advantages to attending graduate school, but there’s one advantage that a majority of students overlook even though it is right in front of them every day: their professors.

If you’re enrolled in a graduate program, there is no doubt that your professors are experts in their particular fields of study, maybe even the top experts in the country or world. That being said, here are a few ideas on how to select a mentor and benefit from his or her advice and professional experience.

sb159Find a Professor to Connect With

After your first few weeks in school, you will begin to notice which professors are similar to you or share a certain passion for a subject. Reach out to them, talk to them after class or visit with them during office hours. By reaching out to a certain professor, you begin to build a relationship outside of the average student-professor role, which could help you with networking and job opportunities in the future.

Pick Your Professor’s Brain

It’s important to ask questions. One thing I’ve learned in graduate school is that professors love to talk – whether it’s about sports, their past career or even current research. Don’t be afraid to “pick their brain” and take full advantage of the professors’ knowledge. If your professors are hard to track down due to time constraints or work load, try e-mailing them to request a meeting in the future!

Be a Sponge

I truly believe that if you want to get the most out of your mentor, you need to be a sponge. When visiting your mentors, “soak up” all the information and advice they have for you. I’ve met several brilliant professors at Northwestern and I try my hardest to spend time around them, even if I don’t have specific questions. You will notice that if you spend time around your mentor, you will begin to pick up pieces of advice or stories that will apply to both your graduate work and future careers.

sb162Take Their Advice

Finally, ask for advice. Having a mentor will help you when you are unsure about a specific career choice, or even questioning your graduate work. There are several benefits to asking for advice. First, you are showing the professor that you are committed and that you want to be the best version of yourself. Second, most graduate level professors have some of the best experience in their fields, and therefore have the best chance of guiding you in the right direction.

Though it may be challenging at first, remember that finding a mentor who fits well with your personality and goals  will help you develop your personal goals and successes throughout graduate school.

Johnny Schroepfer is a Integrated Marketing Communications Graduate Student at Northwestern University. Connect with Johnny on Twitter @jbschroe or visit his website:

Related posts:

  1. The importance of a mentor
  2. Find an Amazing Mentor
  3. The Importance of Networking in Graduate School

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