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From Classroom to Career: How College Students Can Find and Leverage Mentor Relationships

Charlie Fletcher

From Classroom to Career: How College Students Can Find and Leverage Mentor Relationships

College students have a lot to think about. While it’s a time of growth and development for young adults, it’s also a time to think about the future. If you’re going to graduate in a year or two, you might already have a good idea of what you want to do. But, stepping out into the real world after graduation can often be intimidating and overwhelming.

Having a mentor along the way can make a big difference. A mentor relationship can boost your confidence, teach you what you need to know about your field of interest, and potentially help you network with the right people.

But, how can you find a mentor that fits your needs, and what can you do to foster a healthy and productive relationship with them? It’s easier than you might think to form a connection with someone willing to help.

What are the 3 C’s of mentorship?

The foundation of mentoring is firmly based on the three Cs: connection, communication, and collaboration. Every one of these components is extremely important for fostering a vibrant and influential mentor-mentee connection. Connection is more than just a passing acquaintance.

What to Look for in a Mentor

Mentors are there to help you through any kind of transition. You might benefit from finding one at the start of your college career to help with the transition from high school. Or, you might want to form a relationship with one as you near the end of your collegiate career and start thinking about your future. But, not all mentors are created equally.

First, you have to decide what kind of mentorship you’re looking for as you move through college. Do you want someone who is an expert in your field of interest? Someone who cheers you on no matter what you’re doing? Or, are you looking for someone to keep you grounded so you don’t let the stress of your collegiate career and the future take you off track?

As you start your search, write down your professional goals. Creating a career plan now, no matter where you are in your college career, can make it easier to determine the type of mentor you need and want. Your career plan should include:

  • Short- and long-term goals
  • A self-assessment
  • Research and exploration
  • Skill development
  • Networking
  • Personal branding
  • A long-term vision

A mentor can help you with all of these things, so you feel more confident in the career you’re interested in.

It’s also important to make sure you choose a mentor with the right qualities. You want to form a relationship with someone who is invested in you and your future. They need to be a good listener, respectful of your needs, and empathetic while also being a go-getter. You might need to “shop around” for a bit before deciding on the right person to help you.

Sources for Mentorship

Once you know the kind of mentor you’re looking for, how can you find the right person? Start with networking. It’s a good skill to have before you step out into the real world, and you can use it to find the right mentor, even if they’re halfway across the world. Get involved with online networking through social media or online discussion groups. Push your online presence and don’t hesitate to put yourself out there, especially on sites like LinkedIn, to let people know what you’re looking for.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re involved in global networking. While it’s important to be mindful of people’s time, it never hurts to send a quick message to a potential mentor asking if they’d like to chat about their industry. A question can serve as a conversational hook, and help you get your foot in the door when it comes to building a digital relationship.

If you’re more interested in getting to know a mentor in person, look no further than the resources your college offers. Talk to academic advisors. They might already have connections to people who would be a great fit. Or, check out your school’s alumni association for notable individuals who have gone into similar career paths. You can also join clubs, volunteer, or get involved with various campus activities. You never know who you’ll meet and how they might completely change your life and your future.

Leveraging Your Relationship

Once you’ve found a mentor who you think will be a good fit, put in the necessary work to foster a healthy and professional relationship with them.

The best thing you can do is ensure you’re always keeping the lines of communication open with them. Don’t hesitate to keep them aware of your goals, as well as your wants and needs. But, be flexible. They might offer constructive feedback, and you need to be willing to hear it without looking at it as criticism. Your mentor is there to help you grow, and that often means changing the way you originally planned on doing things.

As long as you and your mentor maintain mutual respect for each other, your relationship should naturally flourish. Your goal should be to have the same mentor(s) for a long period of time, until you’ve reached the goals you’ve set out for yourself. That helps to ensure you build a strong, trusting relationship that helps you achieve those goals. It’s never too early or too late to start your mentorship search, so don’t hesitate to use some of the suggestions here to get started.

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