Last Updated: May 6, 2014
The real world can seem like a scary place. College is supposed to prepare you to enter it, but academia can leave a lot of gaps. A great strategy for becoming more prepared for this challenging life event is to find a good mentor. Every new generation claims to be more independent than the last, but they aren’t as self-sufficient as they'd like to think they are. Having someone to guide you on your journey provides priceless advice that can only come from someone who’s done it all before, so here are three pivotal tips for finding a mentor.
1. Understand who you need
If you’re a young finance student looking to understand the markets better or how to break into the corporate scene, target an industry professional. If you are more introverted and want to eventually lead people, perhaps a local entrepreneur is more appropriate to help you break out of your shell. You need to find someone who can help you in one or more of your weak areas. It’s imperative to know who you’re looking for before you set out on your hunt.
2. Know where to look
After identifying who you need, now you have to determine where they are. This a difficult part of finding a mentor. Luckily, sometimes there are programs within institutions that can make this a lot easier. Try checking with your school’s career services to see if they have mentoring programs. No luck there? Try absorbing yourself in your passion. Join a club or study group or go to seminars, classes, etc.
The best way to find people who share the same interests is usually by involving yourself with those interests. Say you want to get better at ultimate Frisbee but know you won’t make the travel team. Go to tryouts anyway and ask those who are better than you to help you out. Got the marketing bug but don’t know how to find those hard-to-find marketers? Maybe a marketing or business professor would know someone who could help. If all else fails, you can always scour LinkedIn, which just happens to have thousands of experienced professionals just a click away. Be bold!
3. Frame your proposal
Now comes the trickiest part: approaching someone for mentorship. This is difficult because you can’t necessarily ask someone outright if he or she would be your mentor. Not only is that too forward, but if they don’t know you well it can come across as kind of creepy and off-putting. Instead, start with a simple request for assistance. People are remarkably helpful when you ask them kindly. However, be specific. Show them how to help you.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that most business people are extremely . . . well, busy. You will most likely have to convince them to help you for more than a few questions, so practice your “elevator” pitch. This little spiel is just a few sentences tooting your horn and answering the question “why me?” This will show you have a plan for your potential mentor and that he or she doesn’t need to wonder if you’re just another kid looking for an easy path to success.
Thanks to the internship pros at WickedSmart for sharing their career search advice!