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Mentors Matter

There is nothing more impactful on your career and personal development than having great mentors — people who have experience in your field and are willing to guide you, provide you with real feedback, and help you grow. Here’s how to find one and make the most out of this person in your life.

Use the system, or search your own.

At some schools, administrators take the lead on making sure students find mentors, and others have a software tool that pairs students with alumni mentors. If your school doesn’t have a formal system for helping students find a mentor, you still have plenty of tools. Get on LinkedIn, talk to the careers services office, and ask your professors for guidance in connecting with a career mentor.

Let the relationship evolve naturally.

Get involved in things you care about and you’ll meet people who care about them too. As relationships develop you will learn a lot about what they know and how to apply it to your life. You might not ever say ‘You are my mentor,’ but those people can be just as important as anyone who signs on officially.

Set some ground rules.

Be crystal clear about expectations. You don’t want to over or under utilize this person. Agree on how often you’ll talk and the preferred communication combo…is it email and phone, or can you meet in person regularly?

It’s your responsibility, not theirs.

You should expect to do the bulk of the work of establishing meeting times and working around your mentor’s schedule. And think about giving not just getting. Even if it’s sending an interesting and relevant article, you’re showing that you want the relationship to be a two-way street.

Set appropriate expectations.

You’re doing this to get some career and life guidance, not miracles. Don’t expect a job, or and internship. It may happen, but not until you’ve earned it. Don’t expect a mentor to advocate for you until you’ve demonstrated you are worthy of that advocacy.

Five questions to ask when you meet a potential career mentor:

  1. What are the primary skill sets I should build to have a successful career?
  2. How can those skills be developed?
  3. What can I read that will round out my knowledge?
  4. Is there anything I can do to help or support you?
  5. What would you do differently if given the opportunity?
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