The Importance of Mentors While in College

By: Kiara

As a college student, it can be beneficial to have a mentor when you find yourself struggling to make a decision or are in need of encouragement. Even though I haven’t had a formal mentor in college yet, I have often asked older students in my workplace and in my extracurricular activities for advice. This has greatly helped me throughout my first year of college to stay motivated and achieve my goals. I think anyone can be a mentor since there is always something new to learn from each person you meet. Being able to talk to someone you trust who has experienced similar things as you can help you gain valuable advice, learn new perspectives, and advance your career. 

Image: book shelves at an angle with lit lightbulbs dangling from ceiling
Text: The importance of mentors while in college.

Gain Valuable Advice
In any unfamiliar situation whether it’s a new job, class, or club it’s important to reach out to others and ask for advice. An official or an unofficial mentor can answer your questions and clarify any confusion. For example, when I started my job at Career & Internship Services more experienced staff members helped me learn the office procedures and expectations. Mentors who share their stories with you can help you figure out your own life and you can also learn from their experiences. Asking upperclassmen about what classes to take, what clubs to join, or any type of assistance in general can aid you in navigating these new situations. It can be comforting to know that someone else has been in your place and understands your challenges. It’s also reassuring to have someone who listens to your academic difficulties or personal problems and can help you plan for your future. 

Learn New Perspectives
Having a mentor can open up new perspectives in the process of sharing ideas and asking questions. Mentors may have qualities in common with yourself and may also have qualities you would like to develop. Qualities I aspire to have from some of the people I look up to include being more outgoing, patient, and a better listener. Mentors can also challenge you to consider different points of view to help you see the bigger picture. This can give you the opportunity to see the positive side of an adverse situation. Additionally, having an outside perspective can shed light on potential difficulties or bring up other valid points to consider when making an important decision.

Advance Your Career
A mentor can advance your career by growing your network of contacts.  Specifically, mentors can connect you to opportunities they have had in the past such as rewarding internships or jobs. Students who are pursuing the same career path or major as you can give you great insight about what their experiences have been like and what they have learned. I have learned that a mentor can also help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses and can aid you in improving upon those qualities.  Having someone you can turn to for career advice can assist you in choosing your major and deciding your career path. For instance, talking to someone with more experience can teach you about careers you didn’t know even existed or inspire you to stay focused on your current career track. Learning from others taught me the importance of being open to advice and suggestions which can help us avoid drawbacks and make better decisions. 

Building a network of mentors can not only help you in college, but can also provide you with support and guidance later in life. I am thankful for the advice I have received from my unofficial mentors since they have helped me learn from my mistakes and prepared me for the future. Overall, formal or informal mentors can assist you in accomplishing your goals within your personal and professional life.

Of Possible Interest:
Mentors: Be One; Have One
• NetworkingOn the Job – all our blog posts on these topics
• Key to NetworkingNow that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest boards filled with resources & articles

Read Kiara’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Janko Ferlic

Mentors: Be One; Have One

By: Amanda

One of the most impactful lessons I have learned throughout my college experience so far is the importance of mentorship—both being a mentor and finding one. Finding a mentor, whether it is in a formal or informal setting, is something that can help one learn and push their limits. I have had a variety of formal and informal mentors in my lifetime. When it comes to making big life decisions, it’s vital to have a trusted person to turn to who understands your life goals and visions. 

Image: notebooks and rose gold binder clips on white desktop
Text: Mentors: How to have one and be one

FINDING YOUR MENTOR

Join Student Groups
Mentors can come in many shapes and forms. If you are in a club or student group on campus, perhaps there is an older, more experienced individual who you can learn from. In my sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, I have two alumni I refer to often for professional and personal advice. Ask to grab coffee with someone who you look up to in your organization. You never know where it will lead!

Use Your Collegiate Unit
Another way to find a mentor is through your collegiate unit. Find someone further along than yourself. Use them and their life as guidance. Learn from their highlights and downfalls; ask sensible questions. Additionally, some collegiate units have formal mentorship programs that kick off every fall. Check out the UMD Mentor Program.

Within Professional Work
Finally, mentors can be found through your professional work. During my summer internship experience, I was paired with a mentor who had similar goals and values as me. We sat down bi-monthly to discuss the program, my goals, and any questions I had. Within your next professional job, seek out a mentor who will help you navigate work experiences.

BEING A MENTOR: PAYING IT FORWARD
Although I haven’t been a formal mentor yet, I have found many instances where I am taken a “mentor-like” role. For example, while working at Career and Internship Services, I have found myself helping younger students who work in our office. I was in their shoes just two years ago and love to help them sift through work, life, or school. Additionally, in my sorority, I’m often helping younger women who are in the business school and trying to maneuver through internships, their majors, or what classes to sign up for. 

Through experiences like these, I have discovered the importance of paying it forward and intentionally aiding others as much as possible. I have had profound mentors over the past few years who have significantly changed the course of my life. Being able to give back in some way, even if minuscule, is something I cherish. 

I challenge you to not only find someone to help you with your career goals but also find someone who you can help. When you do this, you will find ultimate fulfillment. 

Of Possible Interest:
Networking; On the Job – all our blog posts on these topics
Key to Networking; Now that You’re on the Job – our Pinterest boards filled with resources & articles

Read Amanda’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | STIL

Self-Guidance: The Key to Success

By: Paying

All our lives, we have been constantly guided either by our parents, teachers, and/or society. It seems as though a good ⅕ of our lives were following what others have told us to do. As little five-year-olds, we have already started to be shaped to become successful and live a future with purpose. The question now is: what does it mean to actually be “successful” and how do we achieve that? 

When I first started my education in a head start program until the end of my 8th grade year, school was just a part of life and you don’t question it. When high school hit, the struggle of not knowing my strengths and interests complicated the vision that had been engraved in my head: graduate high school, attend college, finish in four years, and spend the rest of my life loving my career. I didn’t want to drop out of high school and disappoint my parents, I didn’t want to take a gap year after high school to figure life out, and I didn’t want to go into college not knowing what I’m there for. 

To answer my questions, I sought guidance from my Upward Bound advisors who emphasized the advantages of college. They reassured me that it’s okay to not know everything and that it was completely normal to feel the way I did. We researched colleges that could offer me what I would be interested in and would enjoy attending. Soon after, I officially declared that I would become a Bulldog at UMD in 2016. 

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Text: Every path you can take has its pros and cons, which varies person to person. The key is to believe in yourself and put in the effort to achieve your success.

After two years of my college life, I knew I had made the right choice to come in unsure because soon I realized how passionate I was in English related courses and declared as an English major. However, I didn’t know where to start because no one around me had a similar path of becoming an editor and once again I was lost. 

The career counselors at Career and Internship Services, along with my alumni friends, guided me through it as they provided stories of their own or others who have been in the same spot and the different paths they’ve taken. Although I was afraid to share my struggles of uncertainty, it definitely cleared my head and made me more confident in my future decisions and to this day I continue striving with the same confidence.

As my last year of education is wrapping up, I realized that soon I won’t have education to keep me busy anymore. Now I have to go out into the “real world” and make my own decisions for my own life, which is a very scary, yet exciting, thought. Throughout my life, I had asked for guidance from my family, my peers, and my academic mentors but now I’ve come to realize that I have started to guide myself. From asking for internships even if there aren’t any listed and becoming the interviewer rather than the interviewee to learn more about the career and/or organization. I am finally guiding myself to live the life I will enjoy and want.

I may have chosen to go through college but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to become successful. Some who never completed high school also reached success and same with those who decided college was not meant for them. A close friend of mine who I could not make it this far without once told me, “Success can’t be measured, it’s not an endpoint. It’s felt by both you and those affected around you.” Every path you can take has its pros and cons, which varies person to person. The key is to believe in yourself and put in the effort to achieve your success. 

Read Paying’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Crawford Jolly

Mentors: We Can’t All be Superhuman

By: Taylor

I think that we all have our own mentors in life. Whether it be a family member, a previous teacher, or a coach, there are always people in life that we look up to and seek advice from. As college students we should also have people that inspire us and who we turn to for career-related knowledge. We can’t have a superhuman tendency and think that we can do everything on our own. Mentors can provide us with networking opportunities, a real-world perspective, constructive criticism, and much more.

I have been reading a few articles on mentors and who the best ones to have are. One author, Kim Kaupe, talked about having four mentors so that your connections would be well-rounded. What were the four? Somebody inside the industry that knows you personally, somebody inside the industry that knows you as an acquaintance, somebody outside the industry that knows you personally, and somebody outside the industry that knows you as an acquaintance. I agree with this model and have set these goals for myself. I think it sets you up with a wide variety of coaches that will come from different places in your life.

That being said, where does one find a mentor? Anywhere! A great place to make connections is at local networking events. This a place where you can find people generally interested in the same line of work as you. Furthermore, consider your family/relatives and your family friends. These people have known you personally and hopefully know a lot about your accomplishments. They will also not hold back when giving honest advice!

You could start by attending UMD’s Alumni Networking Night on November 14th, at The Underground in the Duluth Depot. Make sure to RSVP by November 6th. Find all the details here.

There are many places and ways to find mentors and they can be anybody. Start making these connections early so that the relationships will be more personal and meaningful.

Of possible interest:

Read Taylor’s other posts

The Missing Milestone: Finding a Mentor

By: Cody

Most college students view their career path as a simplified four-step process; go to college, get an internship, get your degree, and finally get a job and start your career. Of course, we all know there are many more things that go into creating your career path, but these are the four major milestones most people think of. This model may work for some people, but I think it is lacking something, and that something is guidance. It is always a lot easier to do something when you have guidance with someone there to help you, and creating your career path is no different. This is where the missing fifth milestone comes into play on your career path, finding a mentor.

I think finding a mentor is always in the back of students’ minds, but they either don’t have the time or feel the necessity to actually find a mentor. However, I think every student should take the time to find a mentor because they are an invaluable resource. They can give you guidance and support along your career path because they have been through the same thing themselves, or something similar. They can also be a great networking resource when it comes time for you to find an internship or a job. It is also worth noting that it is never too late or too early to start looking for a mentor. Mentors are great to have whether you are just starting out on your career path, or you are a seasoned veteran. No matter where you are on your career path, it is always good to have someone there to help give you guidance and support.

I do practice what I preach and have had a mentor for about a year and a half now. I met him through the mentor program, College Connection, which was sponsored by the young professional’s group in Duluth called Fuse Duluth. I have regular meetings with him about once a month when we talk about my career path, along with anything else that pops into our heads (last time we talked about how we both enjoy snowboarding). He has helped me make decisions about my major, graduate school, and he even helped me get an internship for this semester. So he has provided me with a lot of guidance and has helped me out a lot. I plan on continuing to keep in contact with him even after I graduate from college.

So where do you find a mentor?
The first place I would suggest would be the Fuse Duluth website. However, keep in mind that this program is only for the Duluth area and has a limited number of spots. I believe all the spots are taken for this year already, but it is something to keep in mind for next year. You can also use your networking skills and LinkedIn to help you find a mentor. Reach out to people you know and ask if they, or someone they know, would be interested in being your mentor. Finally, you can try reaching out to companies you might want to work for and see if anyone there would be interested in being your mentor. This would be a great way to get your foot in the door!

If you are in a community other than Duluth, see if your local Chamber of Commerce or Young Professionals group sponsors a similar mentoring program.

If you are still having trouble finding a mentor don’t give up and forget about it, remember mentors are a great resource and one of the five major milestones on your career path. Instead, come into Career & Internship Services! We can give you more resources and help you find that mentor you have always wanted!

Of Possible Interest:

Read Cody’s other posts