How to Find the Right College Mentor for You
Feeling lost at any point in your life is a hard thing to experience, but it can be especially trying as a student. Maybe classes aren’t going as smoothly as you’d hoped, maybe you’re juggling a job or a family on the side, maybe your learning style doesn’t jive with the teaching style of a particular course – whatever the reason, feeling like you’re floundering in school can be terrifying.
A mentor can be the solution. But not just any mentor will do; how do you find one that meets your particular needs? You can’t just pick one from a list of names – finding the right one for you takes research and time. Here are some tips as you begin your search.
1. Choose someone who’s successful in the industry you’re aiming for.
This probably seems obvious, but it’s crucial. An architect won’t be able to help you much if you’re studying psychology. You want someone who will be able to provide pertinent information and relevant advice, and this is best achieved by sticking to your own field.
2. Choose someone you look up to.
Choose someone you admire more than just professionally, but on a personal level as well. Make your mentor someone you relate to, or see eye-to-eye with on things that are important to you, whether it be political views, their work-life balance, religion, or even just the way they express themselves. And the feeling should be mutual – your mentor should admire and respect your hard work and the way you’re pursuing your dreams.
3. Be a model mentee.
Think about the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Just treat people the way you want to be treated! This is especially important when it comes to the mentor-mentee relationship. Remember that seeking help from someone doesn’t mean they do all the work for you – on the contrary, you must step up to meet them.
Remember that your mentor is giving you their time and expertise, and be respectful of that. Don’t exhaust them. Ask good questions that have specific, measurable responses – things like “What’s the most important thing I should take away from this class?” or “What’s the best way to study for tests in this class?” – and stay away from the vague and open-ended, like those more suited for a guidance counselor (such as “What if this isn’t what I want to do with my life?”).
4. Have realistic expectations.
A mentor is not a miracle-worker. They are donating time out of their busy schedule to help you, while also juggling their own job and possibly family – understand what is feasible for them to do for you, and what is not. You are still responsible for taking the lead on working toward your career. Don’t expect a job or internship, and don’t go into the relationship thinking that’s what the goal is – it’s not. If that happens, it’s a bonus, and certainly not par for the course.
Instead, just focus on showing your mentor that you are worth advocating for. If you are interested in their connections, you have to prove to them that you’re worth putting in the effort to make an introduction happen. Because if it turns out you’re not worth it, it can be harmful to their reputation and status.
5. Understand that you may not get it right the first time.
The person may have checked all of the above boxes for you – they’re successful in the field you want, you admire them, you connect with them on a personal level – but for whatever reason, the mentoring relationship can still fail. Maybe they’re too busy to give you the time you need, maybe they didn’t provide the insight you were hoping they would, or maybe they just aren’t very helpful. Whatever the reason, don’t get discouraged. Thank the mentor for their time, and begin the search anew. Try to keep an open mind as you start over because sometimes the person you least expect turns out to be the perfect fit.
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