Most people consider mentoring to be a somewhat informal process that evolves naturally between two people who know one another: a teacher and a student, a parent, and a child, etc.
Mentoring, however, has a professional counterpart to these types of built-in bonds that are based on a person’s desire to become well-versed in a particular career field, learn how to navigate the job market, or establish connections in an otherwise inaccessible profession.
There are actually several types of professional mentoring programs, some of which are based on the professions they serve while others are determined by the needs of the mentee. EDUCAUSE, for example, is a non-profit organization that matches mentees to mentors who can help cultivate the use of information technology (IT) in various mentee career fields.
Three reasons why college students should find a mentor are explored below and should help students decide whether a mentor would help advance their careers.
1. Career Networking
Many students and recent graduates may feel daunted when attempting to cross the gap between their time in school and a job in their chosen profession. The old saying that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has its roots in the real world, and making new connections can be difficult.
It can help to have a person who is familiar with the field or the players in a particular geographic location who will introduce you to potential employers and keep you apprised of industry events. Seek these people out among school faculty, in online industry forums that can be found on social media websites like LinkedIn, and among peers who are interested in the same field.
2. Advanced Learning
A student can only learn so much in school; the rest of the education takes place in the real world, often through on-the-job training. The problem is the Catch-22 that many job seekers face: they can’t get the job without experience, but they can’t get experience without getting the job.
A good remedy for this problem is to find a mentor who can train you in your chosen career area and help you build resume clout that will help you be more competitive in the job market. These relationships are often developed as part of an internship opportunity, but can also be sought out via professional mentoring programs.
3. Industry Exposure
Students who spend years cultivating knowledge about a particular career field only to discover they don’t enjoy working in it happen more often than one might imagine. After all, it’s hard to know with complete certainty that a particular job will hold as much attraction as learning about it does.
A professional mentoring experience can provide the opportunity to better understand the more practical aspects of a career; your daily routine, the types of people who will be your colleagues and customers, and the sacrifices and rewards that come with a long-term commitment in the field.
Just remember …
Anyone interested in a mentoring program should do research and explore all the options before making a decision. Programs that are affiliated with reputable schools, maintained by non-profits or grow out of internships or established industry contacts are best, but there are other options available as well. Just keep your goals in mind and make sure your mentor can articulate a plan for how you will achieve them.
James Madeiros is a staff writer for Criminal Justice Degree Schools, a career site providing information on earning a law enforcement degree or careers in criminal justice like a cybersecurity specialist, CIA agent, or blood spatter analyst.