No one enjoys driving around in circles. Navigating life as a teenager or young adult without any guidance feels exactly like that. You’re tired, you’re frustrated, and oftentimes you just wish someone else would get behind the wheel. That’s why having a mentor is so important. A mentor will save you time, energy, and you might make a new lifelong friend.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is an experienced adviser who guides a less experienced individual in their professional endeavors.1
One of the main reasons why mentors are invaluable is because, if you have the right mentor, they most likely have already lived the life you hope to one day have. For instance, a student studying finance would have a ton of questions for a potential mentor. A professional advisor who has been in the field for 20 years likely knows how to answer questions like:
- “How do I get my first internship?”
- “What are some common mistakes I should avoid when entering the field?”
- “How do I know if this career is right for me?”
Now, in today’s digital age, the internet has become our best friend. But there is no amount of search results that can give you advice best tailored to your life than talking to someone who knows you. A mentor helps you make informed decisions based on the following:
- Your lifestyle, hobbies, and experiences as a student, volunteer, intern, or employee.
- Your background, such as coming from a family where certain career paths are more common than others, and your current skills.
- Your values, such as your views on politics and the world and your religious and/or cultural upbringing.
What else does a mentor do?
- They help you set goals and achieve them.2 You may have a general idea of what you want to do, but do you know exactly how to get there? Even if you do, mentors can help you build a pathway to your ideal self by creating timelines with milestones you probably haven’t thought of. They can also help you track how much progress you’ve made toward your goals.
- A mentor keeps it real. They offer constructive feedback from an unfiltered lens.2 Unlike your friends and family who may have more bias when giving feedback, a mentor does not. In fact, ensuring you receive the most accurate advice to succeed is their top priority.
- You get insider knowledge into a specific field3. Maybe your mentor has worked as a computer engineer at several tech companies and maybe they’d be willing to “spill the tea” on different industry practices and corporate cultures.
- They can lend an ear.3 Growing up is tough. Balancing your personal and student lives while starting a career isn’t easy. Mentors understand this and can provide advice on how to juggle it all.
When should I get a mentor?
Anyone can get a mentor at any point in life. As a student, having a mentor has specific benefits.4 Mentors can offer advice on:
- Which classes to take
- How to finance your education
- How to prepare for grad school
- General career, networking, interviewing, and resume advice
- How to balance responsibilities and learn effective time management
Having a mentor throughout the school also pays off upon graduating. According to Inside Higher Ed, “64% of students who feel extremely certain about postgraduation goals […] have had a mentor.”5
So, how do I get a mentor?
Great question. Let’s start by examining what your current needs are. Ask yourself, “What industry do I see myself working in?” and “What skills do I want to build upon or learn?”
After this initial self-assessment, examine your existing network. No matter how old you are, you’re already surrounded by a network of people with different backgrounds and careers, such as your friends, family members, and even teachers. Are any of these individuals working in the field you’d like to be in? Have any of these individuals studied at a college you want to go to or have the same academic major as you? Could they connect you to someone they know who fits this mold?
If your existing network doesn’t meet your mentoring needs, consider meeting new people. If you are in college, browse your school’s peer mentoring programs, campus organizations, or alumni.6 You can also reach out to a supervisor or colleague at a past internship you’ve completed.
Once you’ve identified a potential mentor, set up a meeting with them. Send a short email that is specific about the type of career you’re trying to pursue and why you are interested in learning about their professional journey.7
From here, the rest is history. Set aside time every week or month to talk to your mentor and build your relationship with them. Whether your goal was to get a job or graduate from college, don’t wait until then to thank them for embarking on this journey with you.
Mentorships are professional relationships that offer the ability to have a new type of friend—someone who isn’t in your age group and might not have the same type of life experience as you. Having someone take an active role in getting to know you and work alongside you has also been proven to enhance confidence.5 Who wouldn’t want a confidence boost when they’re transitioning from childhood to adulthood?
Read more Zealousness articles on personal development Personal Development – iN Education Inc. (ineducationonline.org).
- D’Angelo, Matt. 2022. “How to Find a Mentor.” www.businessnewsdaily.com. August 5, 2022. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6248-how-to-find-mentor.html.
- Western Governors University. n.d. “All the Benefits of Having a Mentor.” https://www.wgu.edu/blog/benefits-having-mentor2206.html#close.
- Staff, College Raptor. n.d. “Why Having a College Mentor Is so Important – College Raptor.” College Raptor Blog. https://www.collegeraptor.com/find-colleges/articles/tips-tools-advice/why-having-a-mentor-in-college-is-so-important/.
- “Benefits of Mentorship – StudentMentor.org.” 2019. Studentmentor.org. 2019. https://www.studentmentor.org/how-it-works/mentee-and-mentor-benefits/.
- Ezarik, Melissa. 2021. “Savvy Students Get the Guidance.” Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/10/22/college-mentor-relationships-reach-savvy-students-most.
- Pena, Joe, Natalie Waite, Renard Caldwell, and Nadie DuBose. “Guide to Finding a Mentor.” study.com, n.d. https://study.com/resources/college-student-mentor-guide.
- Phan, Janet. 2021. “What’s the Right Way to Find a Mentor?” Harvard Business Review. March 10, 2021. https://hbr.org/2021/03/whats-the-right-way-to-find-a-mentor.