The Importance of Mentors Module

Step 1 – Learn

What is Mentoring?

What is mentoring? Mentoring is a powerful, personal development and empowerment tool that can help students explore career paths and new ideas as well as provide general guidance in a supportive, professional relationship. It is a chance to look more closely at yourself, assessing your personal and professional goals and what you want out of life.

Mentoring is about increasing self-awareness, taking responsibility for your life and directing it on the path you decide, rather than leaving it to chance. It is a partnership based upon mutual trust and respect and confidence as issues between a mentor and mentee are confidential.

The success of a mentoring partnership depends to a large degree upon your attitude and your commitment. Mentoring is typically mentee driven. Mentees usually take the initiative and are proactive with their mentors. You and your mentor should develop goals and objectives which will help guide the mentoring partnership.

The role of a mentor is to help you think through your options and formulate a direction or plan. Do not expect your mentor to give you the answer to every problem that is presented. Mentoring is not the same as advising, but can offer relevant insight as you plan your career, provide a sounding board for potential ideas or plans and recommend potential networking opportunities. Here are some quick tips on why every student should have a mentor:

How do I find a Mentor?

First, think about industries or careers in which you are interested. Utilize the Career Network to do informational interviews with alumni regarding these interests. You may need to talk to a few people before you feel the connection is right. Perhaps you developed a good relationship with someone at your internship or you feel you have a solid rapport with one of your professors — you could ask them if they would be your mentor. Whether deliberately or not, each of us has had mentors in our lives. Think about the qualities those people possessed and use those traits as a guide to finding a new mentor.

What do I look for in a mentor?

While you want a mentor who has the ability to discuss a wide range of issues, your mentor should be someone you respect and can trust. He or she should be a good and active listener who is able to provide constructive feedback. He or she should have the ability to challenge you, share mistakes and failures with you, provide you with realistic expectations and a good sense of humor always helps too! Mentors will strive to help mentees establish a stronger send of self-esteem and confidence as they continue their pursuit for enhanced knowledge and higher education.

Your mentor can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as help you develop skills for success and a long-range career plan. If you and your mentor share the same employer, your mentor can foster your sense of belonging within the organization, help you navigate the company culture and politics, as well as let you know who the organization’s key players are. You can also work through career and workplace problems with your mentor’s assistance. A mentor can provide a fresh perspective — a new way of looking at a problem or issue. You can bounce ideas off your mentor. Look for a relationship in which the mentor is more coach than advisor — one in which the mentor facilitates your decision-making process by suggesting alternatives rather than telling you what to do. Ideally, your mentor will motivate you to do your best work. For more information about finding a mentor click here:

What types of questions should I initially ask?

  • How did you decide to enter this profession?
  • How did you get started?
  • What kind of schooling or experience does it take to do this job?
  • How long have you worked here?
  • What steps would you recommend I take in order to get a job like yours?
  • What benefits are there to doing this job?
  • What’s the best/worst part of your job?
  • Do you plan to do this for the rest of your life?
  • Is the time investment needed to qualify for this job worth the effort?
  • What part of the job causes you stress?
  • How has your job impacted your personal lifestyle?
  • What kinds of tasks do you do for your job?
  • Is there a part of your job that requires special expertise that you could teach me?
  • Are there any resources you use from which I could learn?

Questions to ask after the mentorship is established:

  • What are your goals and dreams (Short term and long-term)?
  • Why did you choose to pursue these goals and dreams?
  • What books have influenced your ideas and thoughts the most?
  • What ideas or thoughts inspired you or motivated you to get started?
  • What is the one action you have taken that has accounted for most of your success?
  • If you could change your life in one way, what would you change?
  • What magazines, newspapers and/or information products do you read/study?
  • How do you handle defeat and/or failure?
  • How do you handle obstacles and roadblocks?
  • What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  • Who is your hero?
  • Who is in your personal and professional network?
  • Who has had the most impact on your life?

Remember, the only dumb question is the question that is not asked. Take advantage of the experience and insight that your mentor has to offer.

When does the mentoring relationship end?

Additionally, it is also important for both mentors and mentees to consider whether the mentoring partnership may have served its useful purpose or is no longer needed. It is better to end the mentorship on amicable terms than to struggle with a partnership without a firm foundation. However, do consider staying in contact to provide your mentor periodic updates. It’s always good to keep the mentoring door open; you never know when a situation will come up where you can use some good advice. If you do decide to end the mentoring relationship, act on it quickly; don ‘t drag your interactions out if you don’t plan on investing in the relationship and taking it seriously. Make sure you start the separation conversation by thanking your mentor for all or his or her time and effort. Detail what you’ve learned in the course of the relationship and how those skills will help your career in the future. You and your mentor’s paths may cross at some point in the future so always keep it positive. This way, you are able to leave open the possibility of collaborations at a later point in time.