A mentor is a role model and a sounding board – an experienced person who is committed to your journey through academic, professional and/or personal development. Trust, encouragement, and support are key ingredients in a mentoring relationship. Through ongoing communication with a mentor, you will experience an increased level of self-awareness and confidence in your goals.
What is the value of having a mentor?
A mentor provides advice and assistance as you transition from high school to college, and from college to graduate school or the work world. You may have more than one mentor in your lifetime. A mentor could turn out to be someone who is assigned to you, such as an academic advisor or guidance counselor. Otherwise, mentors often appear when you least expect it, with a relationship developing organically in the classroom or in an internship.
It’s important to find a mentor who appreciates and shares your interests, values and personality – that’s the “me” in mentor. Understandably, the younger you are, the less time you have spent on self assessment. Early mentors help you figure out who you are, while mentors who come later help you figure out who you want to be. Richard J. Light, author of Making The Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds, interviewed students from Harvard University about their experiences with mentors and advisors. The students reported that “at key points in their college careers, an academic advisor asked questions, or posed a challenge, that forced them to think about the relationship of their academic work to their personal lives.”
Responsibilities of the mentee
What most young people who want a mentor don’t realize is that with this fantastic opportunity comes much responsibility, not only for the mentor, but also for the mentee. Those responsibilities include:
- Making time to connect with your mentor and taking the lead on scheduling meetings
- Putting together a contract with your mentor to outline expectations
- Keeping your mentor updated on your activities and plans
- Being honest with your mentor and yourself
- Completing tasks that your mentor assigns
- Realizing you won’t always like what your mentor has to say
- Showing your mentor that you appreciate his or her time and effort
What should I look for in a mentor?
- sets aside time to get to know you and work with you.
- offers constructive criticism and realizes your limitations.
- challenges you when necessary.
- is honest with you.
- wants to see you succeed in your chosen path, not his or her own path.
How do I find a mentor?
If you’re in high school, contacting your guidance counselor is a good first step. Certainly, in high school, a favorite teacher, guidance counselor, or coach can be a good mentor. But your minister, an aunt or uncle, or your part time job supervisor are also people to consider.
During your freshman and sophomore years in college, a pre-major advisor or student orientation leader may be able to offer advice for finding a mentor. A professor, academic or thesis advisor, dean, career counselor, campus minister, graduate student, or club advisor are all good choices. Staff members who work with minority students, international students and LGBT students are attuned to the needs of students’ cultural identities.
Mentors need not be limited to individuals on campus. National Greek organizations offer mentoring for sorority and fraternity members. Alumni databases through your college’s career services office and alumni association are excellent sources for finding potential mentors. Learning to conduct informational interviews with alumni is the first step in turning a networking relationship into a mentoring relationship. Finally, many students find their first mentor in an internship supervisor.
Upperclassmen, particularly those trained as peer leaders, can offer effective mentoring. According to Ann Bezbatchenko, Dean of Admissions at Loyola University Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, in programs where seniors and juniors mentor first year students, “students who have a good experience with a mentor later volunteer when they reach junior or senior year and report that they got as much, if not more, from the program as a mentor.”
What, exactly, does a mentor do?
- Come up with goals that are manageable, realistic and attainable
- Help you through difficult situations by providing feedback
- Coach you for a upcoming class presentation or job interview
- Critique your resume and review your online profile
- Make recommendations for college major, internship and job choices based on your interests and skills
- Suggest concrete ways for you to stay motivated
Options for E-Mentoring:
E-mentoring is quickly becoming the new avenue for mentoring. This allows you to connect with a mentor who is geographically distant. Of course, even if your mentor is right on campus, connecting through email makes it easier to stay in touch. Social networking sites provide interest groups that are useful in searching for possible mentors. Of over 300,000 groups on LinkedIn, many were created for the purpose of offering mentoring.
Some examples are:
Entrepreneur Mentor Society: An organization designed to educate, promote, and develop aspiring young entrepreneurs. They seek to create a network of today’s talented, brilliant, and powerful college students and young professionals to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.
YoungPRPros: Seeks to mentor people in the first ten years of their public relations careers and to provide more senior level professionals with a dynamic connection to tactical trends in public relations.
Green Mentorship Community: This group is for members of the Green Jobs and Career Network who are seeking a career mentor, or are looking to serve as a mentor.
Forté Foundation: Forté Foundation is a consortium of major corporations and top business schools that encourages talented women toward leadership roles in business. Our mission is to increase the number of women business leaders by increasing the flow of women into key educational gateways and business networks.
New Girls Network: Group for women who want to be a sponsor, coach or mentor for other women- or to be sponsored, coached or mentored by other women.
The “me” in a mentoring relationship serves as a reminder that there are responsibilities on the part of both the mentor and the mentee in order for this relationship to be successful.
Now is the time to look for a mentor!
Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education.