Is Mentorship Worth It: A Common Misconception
Please welcome back our guest blogger, Alfredo Gutierrez, with the final Part in his series of tips on finding and approaching mentors. Here’s his previous post, in case you missed it.
V. Final Thoughts
I want one of the biggest takeaways from this series to be that a mentor relationship is a two-way street – both you and your mentor should gain something from it.
A common misconception (and a common source of anxiety when asking for mentorship) is that you owe your mentor something or that they are doing you a favor. In my experience, and in the experiences my friends have had, the mentor always learns a lot as well. That’s important to keep in mind — the reason why mentorships work is not just because mentors want to help, but also because mentors want to learn.
One of the most important aspects of asking someone to mentor you is to make them feel like they are special for being asked.
As someone who has been on both sides of mentorship relationships, I have definitely felt valued whenever my mentees ask me questions or for advice. My junior year at NYU, I received a message from someone who I went to middle school with asking me for general advice since they were about to start at NYU. This turned into meeting once a month for the first couple months of their freshman year. We would talk about their classes, some of the clubs on campus, and what major they were thinking about going into. The way he asked me questions and essentially trusted me for answers definitely made me feel not only appreciated but essentially responsible for giving him the best answers I could. So when you ask, make sure that you know no one is doing you a favor, that you’ll be helping them as much as they are helping you.
The Big Ask may seem daunting, but after you do it you’ll be really glad you did. The relationship between a mentor and a mentee is special because it doesn’t have the same degree of obligation that other relationships with adults have. A lot of the adults we encounter throughout our lives have to listen to our questions (teachers, doctors, family members) but mentors make a choice to listen to us and support us.
The bottom line is that having people in our lives who want us to succeed, and who do as much as they can to make that happen, is important. So many people, from scientists to writers, credit mentors as part of their success. I personally have had really wonderful experiences both as a mentor and a mentee. Mentors — personal, academic, and work-related — have been one of the most important parts of my past four years. So I hope this series of blog posts will be helpful to you, in finding and creating supportive relationships with mentors like the ones that I’ve been privileged to have.