One of the best things you can do while in college is find a mentor. That relationship can really set you ahead during your course of study and beyond.
To make the most of that relationship, you’ve got to pick the right person first. I suggest that you come up with a set of goals and ideas you can share with that person during your initial meeting. It’s important that you both have a clear idea of the expectations and outcomes you are seeking.
These relationships need to be open and honest. Part of the expectations is not only sharing successes, but also failures. These discussions can help you grow. Are you both comfortable in being a little vulnerable?
Do they seem to be enthusiastic about the process? You need someone who is excited to share the journey with you. Someone who is willing to answer questions and share your journey. They need to be a resource and help you set goals that will lead you closer to your ultimate path.
You also owe them a few things. You need to be on time for your meetings. You need to be fully engaged in the process. That means not checking your phone every 5 minutes. It means you are willing to put their advice into action.
Set a schedule for your meetings and keep them. Make sure you talk up front about how much and how often you will contact them. Is it ok to text, call or email if something comes up? Are there hours of the day they don’t want to be bothered? Remember, in every life things come up. If they need to cancel or reschedule, it’s ok.
Remember, your mentor is not there to solve your problems but to offer wisdom learned from their journey. So be prepared for a real discussion.
It’s not a one-way street. Make sure you are sharing with your mentor too. Maybe you have skills or talents that would be helpful for them. Maybe you ran across the best article that relates to your field. Don’t be afraid to share ideas or suggestions with them as well.
Learn about their life outside of work. Share what your life is like. The more real you can be, the better you’ll get along. You can also learn a lot about how they balance different areas or work and life. You might find you have a common charitable interest too.
When you meet, have a set of questions or a situation in mind to discuss. Having a point of focus will make your time more productive and keep you from getting lost in a sea of what ifs. Be intentional with your time and theirs.
If it’s not working or you feel like you aren’t connecting, it’s ok to move on. Thank them for their time and willingness to share with you. I’d suggest you consider a short-term arrangement in the beginning to see how things go. Try it for just one semester. If it seems to be working and you both agree to continue, then that’s awesome. However, if it’s not, you have a built in out with no hurt feelings.
On a final note, don’t feel like you must settle for one mentor. Your path will take many turns and there are a lot of people with a wealth of information to share. Take advantage of that. Hopefully, if your mentor is working in a field you are considering, they will introduce you to other people too. You might find people who interest you in many areas who are willing to share what they have learned along the way.