• Tue. May 28th, 2024

Navigating college – or any new chapter of one’s life – can be intimidating among all the novel and unfamiliar things encountered. But it does not have to be done alone. Sometimes there is a need for someone who has been through it all before – and that is where mentors come in.

What is a mentor?

According to an article for Business News Daily by contributing writer Matt D’Angelo, mentorship is defined as “a mutually beneficial professional relationship in which an experienced individual (the mentor) imparts knowledge, expertise, and wisdom to a less experienced person (the mentee) while simultaneously honing their mentoring skills.”

I have participated in many different mentorships – both ones that I have applied or signed up for and ones that have happened more naturally. The people I have met through organizations such as The Recording Academy’s GRAMMY and Well Dunn Foundation have guided me through my early years in the music business.

Though mentors can provide the technical knowledge you may be seeking, they are much, much more than that.

Mentees to mentors

Trey Clements, an instructor of education at Sinclair Community College, first experienced significant mentorship during his junior year at Miami University.

“It kind of came at a time when I needed it most,” Clements said. 

Navigating a predominantly white institution (PWI) as a minority was difficult for Clements, but it also introduced him to Dr. Sheri Leafgren. Leafgren and Clements spoke regularly and bonded over their “critical lens” of education. 

“It might have been my first opportunity to be exposed to true equity being offered to me,” Clements said. 

And it is because of that mentorship that Clements has returned to the institution to speak to current students. Additionally, Clements works with nonprofit organizations throughout southwestern Ohio to break down financial barriers for students wishing to work in education. 

A mentor also helped the trajectory of Jessica Bloomingdale’s career. She is currently the project director for the Mentoring Collaborative of Montgomery County, which provides training and resources to organizations providing mentorship. 

She met her mentor, Jill, through a youth group. At a time when she was painfully shy and unsure of herself, Bloomingdale had someone to help her out of her shell. Jill offered the encouragement Bloomingdale had needed for quite some time. 

“She gave me the confidence to pursue different things,” Bloomingdale said.

For the past 20 years, Bloomingdale has mentored and watched various youth grow up. One mentee, she said, began doing environmental work – inspired by the very youth group in which Bloomingdale started. 

Without Jill’s support, Bloomingdale said, “I have no idea where I would’ve ended up.” 

“Mentors can be professors, counselors, coworkers, friends, and even family”

Carly Webster

What does mentoring look like?

These are great examples of successful and long-term connections, but mentorship looks different for everyone. Sometimes the needs are more tangible, while other times more intangible things (like advice) are exchanged. 

For Clements, mentorship is about “being available” and “offering answers” wherever they are needed. Being a mentor means avoiding making assumptions about what exactly those needs are. 

Clements likes to start the conversation about mentorship in his classes, finding that it often helps students be more open about the ways in which they may be struggling. 

And if he does not have the capacity or ability to help fill those gaps, he tries to find someone who can.

“What we’re seeing is {young people are] a little bit more apprehensive to jump in with folks they’re not privy to,” he said. “Mentorship is not a one-to-one encounter, but it’s a one-to-all possibility.”

Clements said that these connections allow students to have access to things they may not have previously been aware of. 

Where can you find a mentor?

Though mentorship can happen within an academic or similar setting, the formality isn’t necessary, Bloomingdale said. Mentors can be professors, counselors, coworkers, friends, and even family.

In fact, Bloomingdale said peer mentoring among generations provides a unique level of accountability for both sides. Because the mentor knows someone younger is “watching” them, they can push themselves to be a good example.  

“Sometimes it’s just asking,” Bloomingdale said.

In my experience, when making that ask, it is important to be specific. This may take a little bit of thinking, but giving your mentor something to work toward makes helping you much easier for them. Think about your mentor’s knowledge and skill sets and how you can connect those to your personal goals. 

Your mentor is not the only one who can share expertise – you can also teach them something! 

Related Article: Jumpstart Your Career: Where, How, and Why Students Can Get Internships

What should you know before finding a mentor?

Clements said something often echoed during conversations about networking: “Your intention should not be to benefit – your intention should be to connect.” 

During their interviews, both Clements and Bloomingdale said that mentorship requires honesty, accountability, and trust from everyone. More specifically, Bloomingdale said that both mentees and mentors need to be themselves – not who they think the other person wants them to be. 

Inauthenticity can sour a relationship quickly. If you feel like you cannot be honest with your mentor, it may be time to reconsider whether it’s a fit. 

Mentorship is never guaranteed; remember to be respectful of the other person’s time and energy, no matter how much they are giving to you – especially while expecting nothing in return. At the end of the day, you get out of the relationship what you put into it.

Whether you’re a mentor or a mentee, recognizing each other’s individuality is paramount. In an article for the American Psychological Association, Brendan L. Smith writes that mentors should not try to take control of what their mentees are doing, even if they have the best of intentions. 

And though mentees have the right to give or take advice, they should understand that said advice is “feedback, not critiques,” said Clements.

A reminder

It is OK to be uncertain about having a mentor.  If you are interested in learning more about mentorship or just want resources to put you in the right direction, I recommend looking at the various student support services Sinclair offers. Faculty and staff are more than happy to chat with you about what they know. Being resourceful is never a bad thing!

Even if you do not foresee yourself needing a mentor, think about who in your life could fulfill that role – future you will be glad you did. 

Carly Webster, Reporter and Business Manager

(Featured Image from Pixabay)