No matter what career you intend to pursue or how much preparation you’ve put towards developing your professional skills, you can never receive an excess of guidance in the realities and challenges of the working world. While visiting the O’Brien Center for Career Development offers a multitude of helpful resources and advising to provide you with direction in refining your professional skills, developing a mentorship can supply an abundance of additional skills only experience can offer.
So, how can you find a mentor, and why should you?
How to Find a Mentor:
Determine why you want a mentor: Do you need guidance on a project? Do you need advice on how to navigate the professional world and build your professional brand? Do you wish to follow in this person’s footsteps or simply wish to pick their brains on the next steps you should take to succeed in that particular career path? Whatever your motivation may be, it should always come from a place of authenticity in order to serve your needs appropriately (and to avoid wasting your mentor’s time if you don’t plan on taking their advice to heart).
Don’t force it: First, when seeking a mentor, it’s essential to remember to develop a connection that feels natural. Never try to force a mentorship with a supervisor or co-worker just to have that mentor and mentee experience. If you’re going to find a mentor of true significance, you need to find someone whose skills and work ethic you naturally respect and wish to emulate.
Once you’ve found a person in your field that you naturally gravitate towards, asking that person for advice or guidance on a project, task or even a general observation you’ve made on the industry can serve as a perfect way to harbor a meaningful mentorship. Plus, you avoid putting any pressure on the person or creating a sense of awkwardness by outright requesting the individual to take you under their wing.
Make use of your network: Since your first year at Merrimack College, you’ve put work into developing your professional network — whether you know it or not! Between your connections in real life as well as online, your peers from college, former professors, and previous coworkers can all serve as potential mentors. WayUp provides numerous tips towards developing an advantageous mentorship, such as utilizing an Advance People Search on LinkedIn to find people you may know from your former experiences that you may not have connected with yet!
Express your enthusiasm: Always remember that a good mentor-mentee relationship possesses both authenticity as well as an element of fun. You’re learning from someone who is immersed in the very field you’re just breaking into for several years, and they’re providing guidance in order for you to avoid the mistakes they may have made in the past. Show your excitement and willingness to learn all that you can. Adopt the attitude you’d want your own mentee to possess, and, most importantly, be yourself!
Actively participate: If you’re seeking a mentor from your internship, co-op or some other experiential learning opportunity, make sure to be present in your position. While doing your job well certainly remains as the purpose of your experience, always attempt to go above and beyond the bare minimum. Don’t simply attend every meeting, event, and function; prepare for and contribute to them when and where necessary. Exhibit your skills and show why you’re there!
Finding a meaningful mentor can allow you to take your professional skills to the next level and prepare you for entering the professional world far more than simply attending classes can. A significant mentor can help you to discover your strengths and work towards improving your weaknesses, provide insight to the culture and nature of the industry from their personal experience, increase your confidence in your abilities, broaden your network, introduce resources beyond those offered on campus and countless other invaluable assets. Your mentor may even reference you for a promotion or permanent position at the company you’re involved with. While securing an internship and acquiring your own experience first hand can offer you essential knowledge for sharpening your professional skills, learning directly from the experience and wisdom of a professional provides you with an additional perspective on the industry you seek as well as your own performance. While most students know to land an experiential learning opportunity, refine their resumes and cover letters and sharpen their interview skills during their time at college, developing a meaningful mentorship can give you the skills and experience to stand out among the rest.
It’s never too late to search for the perfect mentor for you, and you never know where you may find your ideal mentor. The best mentorships often develop naturally and genuinely; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t put these tips to use and work towards moving the process along!
Written by: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021