Whether you’re in high school, college or an established professional, you are never too old for a mentor. Most young people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up nor do many understand how to get there. Having a mentor is one of the most valuable assets someone can have in their life. A mentor provides advice, guidance, networking, friendship and understand the road you want to travel because they’ve likely been there themselves. I think the majority of people that graduate from college hardly, if ever, go down the career path that they went to school for in the first place. Us Millennials, we really think we know what we’re talking about (but really don’t have a clue). The world is bigger than us and they know that, which is why their guidance is essential. Mentors don’t have to be 40 year professionals, but someone who understands what they’re doing and the world around them. They are not there to hold your hand, but to teach you life lessons and how to react.
They say it’s best to find someone who has been down the same career path that you’re interested in, but it all depends on what you want to get out of having a mentor. When I was in 8th grade, my mother signed me up for this program and I was provided a mentor, because I was a troubled kid and a bad student. The man was a local entrepreneur who was involved in the new mentor program at the school district, which is how we were paired up. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today, but that story is for my next post. Needless to say, having a mentor is invaluable at any age.
For people currently in the career-oriented mindset, typically from late teens through their thirties, finding and retaining a mentor is a must. The key is to find someone in your industry that can help guide you down the right path. Some people have/had really great relationships with professors and chose them as their mentor whereas others believe it best to find someone in the professional world. I understand that it may seem awkward to ask someone to be their mentor, but believe me, that person will feel honored (whether they accept or not) to be asked. It’s a great feeling to have your career validated in such a way. Approach someone who inspires you, who is honest, shares similar goals as you and can be willing to put in the time to grow and nurture the relationship you are hoping to have.
One of the best reasons to have a mentor is the fact that they can help you see your weaknesses and help rid you of them. This is a tough task as many are easily offended or too timid to take such criticism. You want someone who is honest enough to give it to you straight, but that can only happen when you can be honest with yourself. Your friends will see who you are, a product of your past, but your mentor sees a different you, a person that will become a success. In order to be successful, you have to get out of your own way and quit lying to yourself. Take advice when you get it, understand there is more to what you do than you know and always be open to learning more. Mentoring is something I am very passionate about and it can change both your life and theirs. It is very reassuring to know that when you are struggling, either in life or your career, that there is always someone there who will listen and give advice when needed. That relationship is more than just a friendship, it is a bond that cannot be explained.
Part of the passion I feel for this topic is to “Pay It Forward”. I offer this challenge to you: if you’re at a point in your career where you really don’t think you need a mentor, I suggest you look to mentor someone else whether it be from your workplace, a nearby university or even get involved in a local mentoring program. This type of guidance is essential for many children and adults alike. At some point, you need to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you anymore, that you should devote your time to helping others. Take the time, make this happen.