My very first mentor experience was terrible. If you’re like me at all, shy and a little reserved, you understand the complexities of the words “just put yourself out there.” Don’t get me wrong, my former mentor tried the first few days after she was assigned to me, she offered to buy me lunch, suggested I join a group she was in so I could be around older college students in my same demographic, and encouraged me to join her at the group’s activities outside of the Thursday night meetings. Then she disappeared. I went from hearing from her monthly to not at all. I know what you’re thinking, “What a terrible story, how is this helpful?”
College is crazy as you’re trying to juggle school, (maybe) work, and a social life. A mentor should not only help by giving you tools, but also ultimately be that cool example as a metaphorical light at the end of the college tunnel. They achieve it with you, by being as helpful and supportive as possible. Since experiencing a failed mentor mentee relationship, I have a few suggestions I think should have been done that would have, as I enter my senior year, prevented me from being without a mentor and spending most of my college career searching for one.
5 Tips for finding a mentor
- Join a student organization that either A. connects you with a mentor as its main objective, or B. offers a mentor as an incentive to join the group. If you join a group you like, or is mentor specific, you will be assigned a mentor based on common interests and most importantly your major.
- Age isn’t anything but a number. It’s always great to have a mentor in your peer group (i.e. a college senior), but don’t hesitate to accept someone as a mentor if they have an extra 40 years on you. Honestly, even if they aren’t in your peer group, they have much more “life” experience and many more networking connections.
- Tell them what you want up front. It’s easier to establish a relationship when you both are on the same page. Is this business or personal? Do they share some of the same beliefs you feel are important? Do they hate Justin Bieber as much as you? If the person cannot give you any help in the area you seek, then it’s probably best to keep searching. Which brings me to…
- Don’t be afraid to channel your inner Donald Trump and fire them (kindly!) If your mentor is not holding up their end, then they are not an asset. You deserve better.
- Lastly, it’s never too late, and there’s no such thing as too early! If you’re reading this as a senior, the search for a mentor never stops. My former college professor confessed to me that she still has a mentor at the, “ripe old” age of 50 (her words not mine.) If you’re reading this as a freshman, start now! If I knew previously the benefits of having a mentor, I certainly would have kept looking my freshman year and maybe even found someone like me that would have been a shining example of what I could grow up to be.