Having a Person: The Importance of Mentorship

As young adults, we constantly ride the gap between wanting and doing. While some people have their school and work trajectory completely aligned, the rest of us wonder whether or not we are pursuing the right career field yet alone taking the right classes. A common cause for those “what am I doing with my life?” moments is the fact that people don’t like asking for help. I blame that on the romanticized notion that really successful people get to top-tier positions and life satisfaction all on their own. While I’m sure there are people out there that have pulled off a solo trip to success, I stay firm in the belief that those numbers are few and far between. People need mentors. Albert Einstein was a genius and he had a person to turn to, a mentor named Max Talmey. Bill Gates found a mentor in Warren Buffet. Even Warren Buffet was advised by an influential economist named Ben Graham. This pattern of mentorship works for a reason and here’s why:

Specific and Structured Guidance

Having a mentor allows you to ask questions about school, internships, research, networking, and practical steps relevant to your field of interest. Mentor figures can be teachers, professors, club advisors, supervisors, and employers. Let’s say you meet a professional at a campus career fair or through LinkedIn and you find that their past experience or current position are where you want to be in the future. Strike up a conversation and plan an informational interview to get to know them. Ask them if they are able to provide mentorship and have a clear plan of how you want that mentorship to look like. Will you have monthly meetings to go over next steps? Will you email one another weekly to talk about post-graduation job prospects? Seek out your person. Do the research on who knows what you want to know and has the time to engage with you. Just like any other relationship, make sure to maintain a connection so that you and your mentor can both track progress. Creating a plan for you and your mentor to abide by will make their guidance easier to manage and apply in real life.

Talking Things Through

There’s no better way to confirm your understanding of a subject than being able to speak about it. The same goes for analyzing your current situation and preparing for your future. A mentor can provide that space of communication, listening to you verbalize your thoughts on what skills you have and how to best employ them. Mentors can even conduct mock interviews with you before you go in for the real thing, prepping you with tough follow-up questions that are catered to the industry you’re most interested in.

A Flashlight, Not a Crutch

Consider a mentor to be a flashlight, shedding light on a situation and showing the way toward a specific job or goal. They are encouragers, listeners, coaches, and confidants. However, mentors are not a crutch. Relying on a mentor for everything will only stunt your personal and professional growth. Avoid expectations that a mentor is a pseudo-genie, able to solve all of your problems and hand you magical opportunities. They provide that extra bit of reality that will bring you closer to the dreams you have defined for yourself, and that’s important to remember. Who wants their success spoon fed to them anyway? It’s much more rewarding to create your own success (with some help along the way).

Image: Career Girl Network