It’s midnight, the Bachelorette didn’t record last night, you’re knee deep in job applications, and your late night snack is definitely burning in the microwave- who ya gonna call? Well, I can tell you it sure ain’t the Ghostbusters. For me, it’s my mom or roommates; a director or old boss for others; and maybe for you, your sister or English teacher from high school. Though all of these people share different names and titles, it doesn’t change the fact that they are all the same thing to us: a mentor.
I was recently interviewing for a job and the interviewer asked me a question I had never been asked before: “do you have any mentors in your life?”
I had to slow my roll and actually think about this before answering because, to be honest, I had never had an honest-to-good, bona fide mentor before. Never before had I gone through an afterschool program as a mentee in my whole life- or at least not under that official title. My mom is my biggest role model but she’s my mom not my mentor. And my drama teacher in high school was crucial to my development and character but he was my teacher, not my mentor.
But as I sat there babbling on about the people who helped shape me, I realized that just because I had never viewed them as “mentors,” didn’t change the fact that that’s exactly what they are. And in finally identifying them as such I came to understand how invaluable they are to me; they offered me assurance when I doubted myself, gave me advice when I felt trapped in a corner, and made unknown places feel like home. But how were they able to do all of this, have so much confidence when I had so much doubt?
They know more than us.
Believe me, I hate admitting my mom is always right just as much as the next gal, but when she offers advice I always take it. She has the lived experience that I simply lack. More importantly, she also has the heart to forgive me when I still make her old mistakes.
And while my roommates and I may be the same age, we all have experience in different things; if one of them is giving me insight to a topic that I am completely new in, I am going to listen to what they have to say. Age, while important, is not necessarily a defining factor of being a mentor. But in a way, having a mentor is a small lesson in humility. You have to admit that you don’t know everything in order for them to help you. You also have to admit that you can’t always do it on your own.
They have more connections.
All throughout college you hear that networking is the most important thing you will do in your whole life. It’s time put in, conversations had, parties mingled at; but what’s great about having a mentor is that they’ve already built up their very own network of connections that you now have access to. You can’t always get the job on your own, you might have to ask one of your connections to help you out. And having a mentor that can vouch for you in that situation is extremely valuable.
And what’s more, a mentor can help you determine who is a good connection to have and who is not.
They want to help.
When was the last time you asked a professor or school admin for help and they turned you down? It likely hasn’t happened because people love to share their experience and knowledge with those willing to ask for it. It’s scary, and sometimes a little embarrassing, to ask for help or advice but it is always worth it. And most of the time mentors will share more than you even initially asked for, giving you more resources and information than you know what to do with. Which is usually a good thing, but there are exceptions. Read: that one lady who just won’t shut up about her grandson but has a good heart.
What I’m trying to say is that you need a mentor- especially if you don’t think you do. On top of that, you might already have one and just don’t even realize it. If you don’t have a mentor, and recognize that you need or want one, all you have to do is ask. The hardest part is pressing send on the email, once you conquer that, you’ll be so grateful that you did.