I was timid when I first entered college many years ago. I wasn't one of those who raised his hand every time the teacher asked a question (even if i did know the answer). But my mentor helped me out and it worked. Throughout my college years, I have come to realize that I wouldn't have achieved what I achieved without the help of mentors I had (and still do). From my English 101 professor who seemed to have pressed a button to help me think outside of the box to my mentor, a psychology professor, who helped me move from a community college to a senior college while helping me get involved in the research experience, and then to a graduate program where I currently do my MA in educational psychology, my mentor has played a key role in my education and decision-making process.
But, as many students who transition to graduate level work while still being strongly connected to the undergraduate work, as TA or in other position, I find myself being both a mentor and a mentee. First, as I look to move to a doctoral program that fits my interest and relates to the work I've been doing so far, I find my mentor's guidance to be critical and central to any decision I make. Second, as an ePortfolio consultant at LaGuardia, I interact with community college students looking to transfer to a senior college, and it is very helpful for them, for instance, to hear my own experience in transitioning from a community college to a senior college. Being in this interesting position requires assuming different roles in different situations. The same skills and approaches I see my mentor practicing with me, are the ones I put into practice when talking to students in need of guidance.
Now, as a college student, how would you benefit from having a mentor? And who would you look for? Let me share some insights with you all.
A mentor Could Be Anyone
A mentor may not always be someone whom you've known for a long time. A professor may very well function as a mentor and with whom a strong professional relationship can eventually evolve. Now, someone who's just a few years older than you could also be a mentor, guiding you and giving you resources for you to move forward and helping you solve those doubts you'll encounter along the way as you find your career of interest. But, what does a mentor do? Read on.
A Mentor Is a Good Listener
A mentor is someone who is wiser and more experienced in guiding people (students in general) along the way as you choose your career. It is someone who sets asides judgments and lets the student talk. This is critical on any profession but even more so in a mentor. At one point, I was not quite sure about what I wanted to do because I had so many interests; but my mentor helped me through the thinking process, prioritizing, and analyzing which options were the ones more likely to turn into a profession.
A Mentor Thinks Flexibly
A mentor is not someone who imposes what you should do. Instead, it is someone who understands your options and provides ideas on how to turn them into a career or profession. Flipping the coin is what I used to think of, if you want to put it in some way. Thinking flexibly means that one is able to adapt to multiple situations and therefore have full control of it. It is not a a matter of learning the answer to every question (because there will always be unexpected ones), but rather learning how to behave to unexpected situations what defines a mentor. When a mentor thinks flexibly, he can relate to multiple goals while keeping a clear horizon.
A Mentor Doesn't Know Everything
This is one I have come to discover myself. Sometimes, students ask me questions that I really don't know how to answer. But this is not because I simply don't know (what people tend to think I am supposed to know), but rather because I don't have the answer to every question. It is okay to face a situation where you may be as puzzled as the student himself. In this case, it is critical that the mentor takes the role of a resource and stand side by side with the student and find the answer along the way.
Of course there are many more qualities a mentor has, but the above are critical, in my opinion, for those who are in a position of both a mentor and a mentee. Having these handy will make the relationship with both mentors and meentes even more productive. So, are you a mentor? Or have you had one? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo: Sacramento State website
I am an ePortfolio instructor working in New York City. I am also a student in the MA program in educational psychology at Hunter College. In my current position, I instruct students how to develop and build their ePortfolio to showcase their academic skills. I also collaborate in professional development seminars with faculty members from various departments on building the curriculum to teach the first year seminar experience. Read more about me.