I don’t have any mentors. I’m not sure who, exactly, I should go to for advice – particularly non-judgmental, non-condescending advice about school and my future career. I’ll be completely honest with you all; I’m almost halfway through my university career, I’m confused, and I need to suck up my fear and my pride and seek guidance from people who know more than I do.
I decided to use this post as a learning opportunity. I asked 20 of my friends and colleagues who are enrolled in the Faculty of Arts & Science who they go to for advice about school and careers, and who their biggest inspirations are. I was interested in what they looked for in mentors – how they perceive them, the kinds of relationships they have with them, and what they learn from them.
The answers that I received were all very different, but there were a few recurring themes in who my friends look up to and who they go to for mentorship. These are the ones that stood out to me the most:
Every single person I asked seeks advice and inspiration from people who have been there, done that – older siblings and friends who are fresh out of school, parents in a similar field to what they hope to get into, seasoned professionals who have experience giving school and career advice, and high-profile individuals who are successful in their particular fields. Learning from the trajectory of others who are where you would like to be is invaluable, but we don’t have to literally follow in their footsteps. One student that I interviewed reminded me of something that I think we all need to keep in mind, especially when we get discouraged – “everyone’s path is different”.
They know me and have my best interests at heart:
Most of the students I asked sought mentorship from their parents, friends, siblings, cousins, and other individuals that they maintained close relationships with. I was given reasons like “she works hard to provide me with experiences she didn’t have”, “they are people I trust and want the best for me”, and “she’s always done her best to guide me”. I think this is why many of the sources that I seek advice from are lacking; yes, they are experienced and successful, but they are more interested in regurgitating information than having conversations, and I would not go to them with my real fears and insecurities.
Mentorship doesn’t end with the oft-mentioned school and careers. I think it’s important to open up to your loved ones, and learn from the world around you, in all areas of life. I’ll admit that for me, it’s difficult sometimes – I get so lost in my own head that I forget to look outwards. I forget that great mentorship doesn’t always begin with “Well, I’ve got some advice for you…”, and sometimes I just have to listen, learn, and interpret things for myself. Hopefully, that’s an obstacle that I can learn (or be mentored) to overcome.