By: Nadezda Semenova, Peers for Careers Correspondent
(As orginally published in the Ticker: http://ticker.baruchconnect.com/article/career-corner-establishing-a-mentoring-relationship/)
Very often, we do not realize how important having a mentor is. However, as history has shown, successful people do not achieve greatness without the help of others. “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself” is how Oprah Winfrey once described her relationship with her first mentor, Mary Alice Duncan.
Specifically, she was the fourth grade teacher who helped Winfrey “to not be afraid of being smart.”
While mentorship is crucial to developing our careers, students who are starting to build their personal network may face the question: where do I find a mentor?
As Sheryl Sandberg writes in Lean In, “[mentoring relationships] probably won’t develop from asking a virtual stranger, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ The strongest relationships spring out of a real and often earned connection felt by both sides.”
You may already experience such connections with your parents, professors, peers and friends. Although you may not refer to them as mentors, these people may provide you with advice, guidance and constructive criticism.
Another way of finding a mentor is through networking. As Julie Winkle Giulioni wrote in her book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: “Today, the lines between mentoring and networking are blurring. Welcome to the world of mentworking.”
Mentoring is especially relevant to Baruch College students who have access to weekly corporate presentations, panel discussions and other networking opportunities. Finding a mentor can be as easy as engaging in meaningful and thoughtful conversations with professionals during an on-campus event and then following up with them afterwards.
Baruch also provides a formal mentoring program, Executives on Campus (EOC). The program provides a forum where students and willing mentors come together with programs like the Academic Year-Long Mentoring Program and Mentor for a Morning. Jacqueline McLoughlin, Director of EOC, notes that both programs have grown significantly.
This year, the program made 360 mentor-mentee pairs for the year-long program, compared to 200 pairings last year.
The foundation of a good mentoring relationship is mutual trust and respect. It is also important to be clear on expectations. Often, students have the misconception that a mentor will do all the work for them or will hand them a job. Either of these assumptions is wrong. Having a mentor is a privilege and involves showing effort.
The mentor-mentee relationship is about becoming a better communicator, figuring out career goals and aspirations, and developing professional connections. For example, mentors can share their insight in the industry, help you to create and polish your resume, and prepare for an interview.
Another important aspect of mentoring relationship is communication. Because people have different personalities and schedules, it is good to learn of a mentor’s preferred method of communication and have a clear time frame for meetings and follow-ups.
Do your homework before coming to the meeting, have questions ready, and think about topics you want to discuss. Communicate your goals, obstacles and achievements on a regular basis, and be open for an honest feedback.
In addition, it is necessary to remember that mentoring relationship is two-sided. Mentees mistakenly believe they have nothing to offer and feel uncomfortable constantly asking for help.
However, each mentee has his/her interests, actions, and progress, which can entice mentors to want to help. Read articles authored by your mentor, learn more about their industry, invite them to speak on a panel at your club event, or simply ask what they are working on now. All these actions will help you to contribute to cultivating a stronger relationship.
Once this relationship is established, like any other, it will have its peaks and hollows. As a mentee, it is your responsibility to stay in touch. Keep your mentor updated about your achievements and progress. Having a mentor requires work, but it definitely pays off.