Tips for Finding a Mentor: Who’s The One?
And now, please welcome back our guest blogger, Alfredo Gutierrez, with Part 3 in his series of tips on finding and approaching mentors. Here’s his previous post, in case you missed it, and here’s the next post in the series.
III. Who’s the One?
Once you have an idea of what your interests are or you have a couple of interests you want to try out, you’ll have to narrow down the people you want to mentor you.
Think about who you would want to build a relationship with. Most people pick a coach, a teacher, a counselor, or another adult who you can drop in and see without it being a big deal. You can look up their work (their blog, if they have published anything, where they work, where they went to college) and what they focus on. Maybe the coach for your team has coached at a school you want to go to, or maybe your science teacher focuses on a specific area of science that interests you.
You can make a list of people who seem interesting and who you want to get to know better, making note of how they could help you learn and grow. For example, one of my current mentors has experience in an artistic scene; they know a lot of poets and writers from their time in grad school, and that is a scene I would hopefully like to enter. Additionally, being a first-year professor, they can help me understand more what it’s like to be a university instructor, which is a career that I’m interested in learning more about.
Below I’ll give some more examples of how some of my friends and I chose our mentors.
1. My English Professor
The fall of my senior year of college, I took an English class with a new professor. After the first couple of weeks, the class became what I looked forward to every week. Not only was what we were learning interesting, but the professor was really open to talking after class and gave a ton of feedback on my assignments. After talking with her one day after class and finding out that she knew a lot of poets and writers (and also was in a career as a professor that I might want to pursue), I decided to stop by her office hours to hopefully begin the recurring meetings that make up a mentorship. Starting in October of that year, she and I talked often, and it’s been going great.
So I followed the three steps: I had in mind something that I was interested in, I looked for a person who knew a lot about what I was interested in who was also showing that they wanted to be helpful (by giving lots of good feedback), and I approached her during her office hours, when she was less busy and could talk to me one-on-one.
2. My Friend’s Volunteer Supervisor
A close friend of mine had a similar relationship with her supervisor at her volunteer site. She had a year long internship inside the Mayor’s Office in New York City, at an organization that connects women with resources they need. Her boss was someone she looked up to, and she talked to her over lunch often. She saw the opportunity to get to know someone who was in charge of a whole office that was actively trying to help people, someone in a role that she hoped to one day be in herself. Seeing another woman in charge of a large office and in a position to give back to those who need it was an inspiring moment for her, and she wanted to learn as much as she could from her boss.
3. My Other Friend’s Track & Field Coach
Similarly, I remember in high school having one of my closest friends have a mentorship with his Track & Field coach that I was jealous of. I remember him staying after school to chat with his coach, and sometimes even staying after his already long practice to run extra drills for his coach. He used to tell me that his coach would check up on him to make sure he was doing well academically, and one time he wasn’t doing too well in Biology so he spent some time going over the material with his coach, since the coach was also one of the three Biology teachers. I asked my friend once why he did all these extra things, like the extra drills and the extra studying, and he told me it was because he wanted to learn as much as he could from his coach. He went on to run track in college, and last time I spoke to him he still emailed his old coach.
So my third tip is: Make a list of adults in your life who you think you might want to ask to be your mentor.
In this list, make note of what it is your possible mentors do, what their history is (like their education, or other places they have coached, etc), and what their interests are. When you narrow down your list, think about what it is you would want from the mentorship. This will help you figure out who most fits the type of mentor you are looking for, and will get you ready for the hardest step: asking them to mentor you.