Do You Need A Mentor?
- Student Tips
What do Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, Professor Dumbledore, and Mary Poppins have in common? In addition to great screen presences, they’re mentors. They show their charges the way forward without giving them the answers. They challenge others to think for themselves and be at peace with their decisions.
Do you need a person like this in your life? You might.
A mentor at the undergraduate level is typically an older student that has experienced a few years of college already who wants to guide you on your journey. Some colleges even have official mentoring programs, where you’re paired with someone trained in mentoring who wants to help.
One benefit? Someone on that campus is looking out for you.
Do you need one?
Let’s take a look at five questions to ask yourself to figure it out.
1. Do I need help navigating the college world?
If you’re a new college student, transferring, or feel a bit adrift, a mentor may be just the ticket. Having a mentor gives you an opportunity to engage with someone else, encourage you, offer support, and relate to you—and answer all your questions.
If you find yourself wanting help or guidance on who you are an what you’re doing—and the experience that you envision for yourself as a college student—then go for it.
2. Do I need a study partner or a mentor?
There’s a difference. If you need help with class assignments, get a study buddy, a tutor, or start attending your professor’s office hours.
If you want someone to talk to about life and career goals—maybe with a touch of academic advice, then you want a mentor.
A good mentor won’t answer all of your questions but will guide you to answer them yourself.
3. Do I need help to solve problems at home, and not only in college?
Coupling problems at home with problems at school is a recipe for potential disaster. A good mentor can help you navigate both worlds successfully—and stay in school.
Consider the program called, “Stay the Course” in Texas, a non-profit organization that offers counseling and mentoring staff competent in the cultures of the military and first responders, and families who’ve faced severe financial challenges.
In a recent article on KeraNews.org, Cortney Cunningham, who runs the program said, “Stay the Course students that participate in the program, they're two times more likely to stay in school." She added, "And then the female population, they're up to four times more likely to stay in school and that's compared to the control group.”
4. Am I thinking about my future career?
If you find the thought of your future career a daunting one, you’re not alone. A mentor can help you figure out what you’re thinking—and what you want to do.
In an article on Monster.com, Beth Zefo, co-author of Grad to Great: Discover the Secrets to Success in Your First Career, said, “A mentor can help you establish your career direction and set long-term goals.
The key? Pick someone who can show you the way forward. (See #5)
5. How do I pick a mentor?
You’ve decided you need a mentor—that’s great! Now, how do you find one? If your college or university does not have a program, you can—and should—find one anyway.
Here’s where you can look:
Current or former professors: If there’s someone with whom you connected and would like to get to know more, stop by office hours or make an appointment. Make a formal ask.
Bosses or Supervisors: Folks for whom you work in a job or internship make great mentors.
Professional organizations: Whatever field you’re considering has professional organizations. Reach out—some may even have organizations already established for aspiring professionals just like you.
Alumni database: Contact your school’s alumni office and ask about mentoring. You’d be surprised at what you find.
The key? Connection. Find it. Make it. Nurture it. Blossom and grow.