In the movies, every hero has a mentor who helps them achieve their goals: Dumbledore shares his wisdom and advice with Harry Potter, and Yoda trains Luke Skywalker to be a Jedi. Mentors are also important in real life because they can provide guidance and support during a student’s journey.
Last semester I participated in my university’s alumni mentor program and communicated with a professional in my future career pathway. I hope to work in the field of education, so my college paired me with the director of instruction from a local school district. After participating in this program, I believe all college students should work with a mentor in order to make professional connections, explore careers, and develop work skills.
If you’re struggling to find a mentor, think about professors, upperclassmen, or people at your workplace who may be willing to mentor you. You could also reach out to your university’s career center for information about connecting with alumni. Finding a mentor is the first step, but it isn’t the last—you will need to create a positive relationship with your mentor in order to build trust and spark meaningful conversations. Here are my top five tips for a successful mentoring experience.
1. Be professional
Mentors donate their time to work with you; show your appreciation by being on time for meetings and dressing appropriately. Put your phone away and give your full attention to the person in front of you. Practicing professionalism with your mentor will help you develop this skill for your future career.
2. Get to know each other
Learn about your mentor’s story and share your own. You may choose to discuss some of the following questions:
- What challenges have you overcome?
- Who has encouraged you throughout your journey?
- Why did you feel inspired to choose this career path?
Discussing these questions can help you form a connection with your mentor and learn things you didn’t know about them. Hearing about your mentor’s journey may give you information for your own career path.
3. Set an agenda for each meeting
My school’s mentoring program provided a handbook with suggested topics for mentors and students to discuss. At our first meeting, my mentor and I looked through the handbook and chose a topic for each session. Setting an agenda for each meeting helped us focus on subjects that were most relevant to me. Our discussions centered on themes like student teaching, job applications, relationships with colleagues, and graduate school. Choosing these topics ahead of time gave me the chance to prepare for each meeting and write down my questions.
4. Visit your mentor’s workplace
All of my mentoring sessions were virtual due to COVID-19, but I would encourage you to visit your mentor’s workplace once the pandemic is over. Shadowing your mentor would give you the opportunity to meet their coworkers and connect with other professionals in the same field. It would also help you experience the work environment and decide if your mentor’s career would be a good fit for you.
5. Ask for feedback
My mentor reviewed my résumé and asked me interview questions, and he shared some tips that I can use when I apply for jobs in the future. I now feel more confident about my résumé and my interviewing skills. You could also ask your mentor to give you feedback on your LinkedIn profile.
These five tips will help you get the most out of your mentoring experience. Don’t forget to send a handwritten thank-you card. When you put time and effort into this relationship, you can develop a lasting connection that will be fulfilling for both you and your mentor.