By Emily Moore, Small Coffee Intern
Editor's Note: Having personally benefitted from having several mentors, I tasked Emily (an entering graduate student) with a) doing some research on how best to take on a mentor, b) seek out a mentor and c) chronicle her experience for our blog. If you're wanting to take on a mentor but don't know how to start, look no further.
Many students know that having a good mentor can truly make a difference in their careers, but don’t know how to get a mentorship. Many either wait around for the opportunity to present itself or they go about finding one the wrong way.
Nearing the end of my internship with Small Coffee, and wanting to send me into graduate school as prepared as possible, Clarisa assigned me the task of finding myself a mentor. I reached out to my former (and favorite!) marketing professor, Dr. Debika Sihi, who gave me stellar advice on how to be a successful professional young woman in Austin, as well as insight into how she became the impressive woman I admire. I also contacted the Women Communicators of Austin and requested a mentor from the list of members at WCA that have already volunteered their time and have mentoring experience.
-The best advice my mentor received from her mentor.
These two methods of finding a mentor are both beneficial in their own ways. Picking a previous professor or colleague allows your relationship to skip the “get to know you” stage and also makes the mentor’s job easier since they have already spent time with you either academically or professionally. However, being set up with a mentor from a third party service allows you to get unbiased advice since there isn’t a previous relationship.
“Find someone you want to be like”
Now, finding someone to mentor you doesn’t mean your job is done. Some think that once they’ve done that they can just sit back, kick their feet up and listen to their mentor give them advice. Remember, this is your mentorship. Don’t waste your time or theirs.
Here are some tips on how to make the most out of your mentorship:
1. Be prepared
Have questions ready but don’t feel the need to stick to that script or not ask a follow-up question. Don’t hesitate to ask more questions if you don’t understand. Not asking for clarification when you need it is only hurting yourself.
Check your ego at the door. Don’t hold back questions because you’re insecure. The best way you can help your mentor help you is by being open and honest about the things you’re struggling with. If that means getting a little vulnerable, then that’s how you know you’re getting the help you really need.
“If you’re withholding and you’re not transparent, your mentor is going to end up mentoring an imposter.”
As mentioned previously, this is your mentorship. That means you are running the show. You’re the one responsible for reaching out, following up, setting up meetings and putting this great advice and wisdom into action. However, when following up, be sure to not overwhelm and chase your mentor off or create stress for them. Always be accommodating of their schedule. Define goals for meetings ahead of time by knowing what you want to discuss and accomplish during your meeting. They are here to help you out of the kindness of their hearts after all. Remember to show gratitude, honesty and respect.
The only way a mentorship actually works is if the mentee (you) actually follows the advice being given. Your mentor can talk for hours but if you don’t take their wisdom and put it into action then you’ve wasted their breath. Set short and long term goals, share progress and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. In order for it to be a successful mentorship, you have to commit to it. Then, once you've reached all your goals, don't forget to ask your mentor what you can do for them.