When it comes to college, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of getting your degree on time and how that can serve as a springboard to career success.
But there’s one thing you can take away from college that might even be more important: a good mentor.
Back when I was struggling through the first few years out of college and trying to find a good-paying job that had something — anything — to do with writing, I happened to bump into an old professor of mine during a visit to my alma mater. I told him that I had been having a rough time finding the right job (mostly because of my own lack of preparation while still in school). He immediately took it upon himself to contact some other alums in my field and asked them if they could help me out at all. That day we also had some great conversations that led to a long-term mentorship/friendship that has proved invaluable in growing my career as a writer. My only regret is that I waited so long to build the relationship in the first place.
A good mentor can play a huge role in your post-collegiate success. But you don’t have to wait until you’re out of school and struggling to find the right job (like I was). No matter if you’re just beginning your collegiate life or wrapping it up, there’s no time like the present to go out and find a trusted mentor to provide the guidance and support you need in school and beyond.
Sounds great. But how exactly does one find the right mentor?
The obvious first place to start looking for a mentor is within your school’s faculty. My mentor turned out to be one of my old English professors. Unfortunately, back when I was taking his classes, I was too distracted by the other, less academic pursuits of college life (let’s just leave it at that) to realize what a valuable resource I had right there in front of me.
Take a look at your professors. Is there any one in particular with whom you feel a special connection? Is there one you think who’d be willing to spend time outside of the classroom on a regular basis to provide the type of guidance you need? Is there one with a level of expertise in the field you’re looking to get into? Sometimes it just turns out to be someone who’s a good listener. Once you nail down a possible candidate, just be honest and tell them what you’re looking for. You never know unless you ask.
Another great place to start your mentor search is your school’s alumni. Chances are there are hundreds or even thousands of alums in your major out there in the ‘real world’ who can provide some hands-on career advice. Tapping into their years of experience can help you build a strong foundation on which to begin your career and help you avoid costly mistakes once you graduate and enter the workforce.
Start by checking LinkedIn for alums who graduated with your degree or who are in your particular industry of interest. Ask to connect with them and let them know what you’re looking for.
Your school’s office of alumni and career centers are also good places start your search. Ask for a list of all alumni in your major, which should provide contact information — emails, phone numbers, addresses — that you can use to reach out to them.
You can also ask your professors if they happen to keep in touch with any alumni personally who they think may be able to help.
Figuring out what you want to do in life and then building a career is no simple task, and it’s not something you should try to tackle on your own. Tap the resources that you have through your college — your professors and alumni — and find a person — or better yet, a team of individuals — who can share their experience and knowledge with you as you begin the career phase of your life. ~