Monday, January 3, 2011

Get By With a Little Help From Your Profs

Ask any successful professional the secret to her success and I will wager that you will not hear "I did it on my own." We all need a support system - a personal "board of directors," if you will - and a mentor is a crucial part of it. A mentor is someone who has specialized experience in the work field that you are interested in entering and who agrees to help nurture your success. The key phrase in that last sentence is in the work field that you are interested in entering. It differentiates a mentor from a coach (the latter being a topic for a different blog post).

College professors have the potential to be wonderful mentors: they are most definitely experts in their fields through their academic backgrounds and research, and the cultivation of young minds is their forte. How would you approach one of your college professors to be a mentor to you?

  • Be familiar: a mentor relationship is best cultivated with someone with whom you already have a relationship. If you do not have one, create one by becoming engaged academically and studying your field outside of class.

  • Be intentional: meet with your professor during her office hours and express that you are interested in creating a mentorship relationship with her. State why you've asked her in particular and what you hope to get out of the relationship. Furthermore, show genuine reciprocity by asking what you can do for her.

  • Be resilient: professors are very busy, so do not be surprised or discouraged by a reply of "thanks, but no thanks." Simply seek out others with similar qualifications who can assist you with your career.

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