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Finding a Mentor

Find someone who’s more than just an idol you admire.

College is a time to learn. That’s a pretty straight forward idea. But it isn’t all about improving your academic knowledge. The college years are a unique era in life when you can take time to grow as a person. One of the best ways to do this is to find a mentor, an experienced and trusted advisor.

First off, what makes a good mentor?

Why do you need a mentor? Because you don’t know everything, and there aren’t enough classes in the world to teach you what you need to know. Everything from navigating the job market to managing your finances are often better learned by soaking up the experience and having someone guide you through these processes.

There are a few types of mentors you should look for:

Some may cross over, but it never hurts to have more than one. Learning how to make difficult but informed choices is part of what having a mentor is about. Multiple opinions are good. Finding a good mentor isn’t an overnight thing. It’s going to take time and some effort. Ask people you know and already spend time with; vet them. Let them know what you’re looking for and why.

You can’t force someone to become your mentor the same way they can’t force you to be their mentee. Just because you’ve had an established relationship with someone doesn’t mean you’ll fit well in a mentoring relationship.

However, if someone feels they’re not in a position to be your mentor doesn’t mean they aren’t in a position to help you find one. Embrace that help and form a team to find your perfect mentor. Also, as mentioned before, someone might be better to fill only one of your mentor needs.

Don’t be afraid to change mentors. Someone who seems to be a great fit at the start might not be the same fit in a year. Maybe you’ve grown more than expected, or maybe there is something off in your dynamic. Don’t cut ties because they called you out or challenged you. You asked them to do that. This is another area where having more than one mentor helps you. If two or more people agree, it’s you not them that’s wrong.

Or maybe you need to change mentors because your goals have shifted. If you started school with the goal of becoming a teacher, and find out education is the wrong career for you, it only makes sense to find a mentor that’s in line with your goals. Whatever you do, talk with them and let them know what changes you’re making and why. They might not be in line with your education and career goals, but maybe they fit in other places.

In the end, it’s all up to you. Before you start, write down what your goals are. Put together a profile of what you think a good mentor would look like for you. Ask friends, family, and others you currently trust to help you.