Transitioning from college life to your professional career is an exciting time full of growth and possibility. It can also be a little bit scary (in a good way!).
You’re making big decisions about where to work and what path to take, developing new professional relationships, and maybe even learning how to be financially independent for the first time.
While it’s important to have an existing support system to lean on — parents, siblings, friends, etc. — it’s also incredibly valuable to have a mentor who can help you navigate your career and develop professionally.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who cares about your wellbeing and wants to see you succeed in your career and in life in general. They’re someone who has been where you are and can be a role model for where you want to be professionally.
A mentor can help you set up an action plan to achieve your career goals.
They can also share their own experiences and help you avoid some of the mistakes they’ve made — or simply be there to support you when you make your own.
A mentor could be a supervisor or experienced colleague at your company. They could also be someone who works in the field you’re interested in breaking into. Mentors can also be former professors, faculty members, or any other person in your life who is willing to put in the time to support you, provide constructive feedback, and challenge you when it’s needed.
Why should I have a mentor?
According to mentoring.org, quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional ways. Mentoring can help you connect to personal growth and development, as well as open doors to social and economic opportunities.
Having a mentor can give you a leg-up in your career and in life. Mentors have no ulterior motive or financial interest at stake (you don’t pay a mentor); they are simply in it for the satisfaction of paying it forward and seeing you succeed.
A mentor can be a knowledgeable, trustworthy sounding board throughout your career, and provide you with:
- Professional references
- Network connections
- Honest/constructive feedback
- A fresh/different perspective
- Guidance and encouragement
- Challenge (when you need a push)
What makes someone a good mentor?
Different types of mentors will make sense for different types of mentees. You have to find one that complements your personality and communication style. But while personalities differ, there are certain qualities that every good mentor has.
According to MasterClass, a good mentor should:
- Listen and act as a sounding board.
- Question your plans, goals, and aspirations (with respect).
- Offer constructive criticism of your choices and behavior.
- Provide emotional support and encouragement.
- Model good behavior, ethics, and values.
- Push you outside your comfort zone and challenge you to excel.
- Encourage independent thinking and decision-making.
- Facilitate your success and provide you resources through networking and active promotion of your career.
- Have no ulterior motive that is not in your best interest.
How do I find a mentor?
For some people, a mentor-mentee relationship develops naturally with someone they’re already acquainted with. But this is not the case for everyone. Sometimes you have to seek out a mentor.
Ideally, this person will be in your life for the long term, so it’s important to find someone who is a good match for you and can help you get where you want to be in your career.
Being a mentor is a big responsibility. By asking someone to mentor you, you’re asking them to volunteer their time to help you, so don’t rush into things. Get to know potential mentors first. Meet with and interview different people to find the right person who is willing to make that commitment.
You can start by figuring out what you’re looking for in a mentor and what you hope to learn from them. Here are a few things to think about and jot down:
- List three specific skills you’d like to learn from someone in your field (or a field you’re interested in).
- Are you looking for someone just a few years ahead of you in their career, or someone much more seasoned?
- Do they need to live in your area or are you okay with a mentor you only meet with virtually?
- How much time would you want your mentor to spend with you? (Monthly meetings? Weekly phone calls?)
- Write down the names of three potential mentors to reach out to and interview.
If you aren’t aware of any potential mentors in your network that fit the bill, you’ll have to expand your search. Reach out to colleagues, friends, or former classmates to see who they might be able to connect you with. Dig into your LinkedIn network and search for people in the companies and fields you’re interested in.
If you’re an Alpha Kappa Psi alumnus, your fraternity network can be an excellent resource in the business world. And who knows, your future mentor might be a brother too!
Connect with your local alumni chapter to meet members in your area and get involved.