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  • Writer's pictureJordan McDaniel

The Importance of Professional Mentorship in College:

The Importance of Professional Mentorship in College: I feel the need more than ever to talk about the importance of professional mentorship in college after meeting with a wonderful new mentor last week. Mentors are such a valuable tool at any age, but especially early in your career. I have always had the curiosity to talk to as many people as I can about their profession and how they got into it. I started off meeting and chatting with criminal lawyers while watching court cases in my free time three years ago, and now have met dozens of people from many different backgrounds I consider having mentored me at some point. Not all mentors are created equally, however, and it can be intimidating to find one. A good mentor can help you land jobs, give you career insights, and guide your path. Here are a few things in my experience that have helped me receive mentorship from lawyers, executives, judges, colleagues, and even just fellow interns.

How Do I Find a Mentor?Before I knew better, I was meeting mentors by chance and basically accepting any lawyer or professional who would give me their time. Now, I am much more diligent, careful, and quite frankly, picky. This is important to both you, and your potential mentor for a variety of reasons. Here are ways I find people I may want to speak with:

  • Researching people from different backgrounds and finding out everything I can first about their path online.

  • If I still have questions, I contact them and ask to speak on the phone, email, or if I’m lucky, meet for coffee or lunch. If I can’t talk to them directly, I try to read or listen to their books, attend their conferences or watch them online, and read interviews with them.

  • If you are intimidated by emailing someone you don’t know to ask for advice, contact your college advisor and ask if they have a mentor matching program. I had no idea my own college did until recently, where I am now connected with a person who genuinely cares about my success and has a lot of career experience.

Have a Variety of Different Mentors:I think life is fuller and with more value if you have a variety of opinions and insights around you. I used to only talk to a small group of lawyers, and now I talk to anyone I’m curious about or think could offer me a valuable insight. Even if you are dead set on a career, as was I, I have always found value in talking to those who are in a role I want to know more about. While you must always be professional and appropriate, you can’t be shy!

An example of this was when I shadowed an addictions medicine physician. It may seem like an unlikely match for some interested in law school, but I was curious about criminal and healthcare law, and wanted to know what it was like to be a doctor on that side. I learned about his own hesitations about the current status of drug criminalization and laws, how his office was run for people coming off of serious drugs, and more. Instead of just talking to a persecutor or healthcare attorney, I learned a whole new perspective. I have found it’s important to talk to women, talk to men, talk to people starting companies and those already seasoned in them, etc.

Don’t Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor:Asking someone to be your mentor that you have probably never even met is asking a lot. Instead, ask someone for a few minutes of their time to talk about their career or advice on yours. When you get your time with them, have questions ready and be respectful of their time.

Don’t Make it a One-Sided Relationship:We are all really busy. If you are lucky enough to find a good mentor, try not to waste their time. Ask them about projects they are working on and look for ways you can help them if they need it. While you may feel like you don’t have much to offer as a college student, make sure they always know you are a resource. If you go out, buy their coffee. Thank them for their time. And if they have helped you with your career or path, let them know! Always be genuine about this.

How Do I Stay Comfortable During the Meeting? With the current “Me Too” movement and with my site focused around female empowerment, I feel compelled to also write about sexual harassment and feeling comfortable when you are meeting with a mentor. I have had my own good and bad experiences with this topic, and I think would be helpful to share my thoughts in another post. I will be making an entire series on mentorship, and will reflect my perspective on this soon. Stay tuned.

Exciting News/Update!While I meet with mentors regularly, I have never filmed or recorded the advice. Since I find myself fascinated watching videos or reading articles of interviews all of the time, often trying to play back previous ones I have done when I need help, I decided I will start recording all of them I can. My new project starts this week in interviewing the CEO and founder of RISE Workspace for women, Stacy Taubman. I can’t wait to share with you what this badass woman has to say.

Hope this was helpful! Until then,

Dana Wiele, a Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel of a Fortune 200 company, is a great example of mentorship and was one of the kind mentors that let me meet with him regarding his career and advice on my own in the summer of 2017.


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