Career Development: The Value in Finding a Mentor

By Purnell T. Cropper | November 15, 2011

By Stephenie F. Wilson, M.A., Assistant Director of Career Education

Have you been encouraged to partner with a mentor, possibly a more “seasoned” professional that you can learn from as you begin your career? If you have not already thought about selecting a mentor, please consider the potential value in gaining insight from the personal and work-related experiences of a professional whom you trust. The right mentor may be just what you need to develop the appropriate networking and decision-making skills necessary to jumpstart your future. The possibilities are endless.

Let’s first start by addressing the definition of mentorship. According to Wikipedia, the mentor-mentee rapport is a “personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced and knowledgeable person helps a less experienced and knowledgeable person.” Mentor-mentee relationships can either be formal and structured or built on very informal interaction, to anywhere in between. Many academic, internship, and new hire programs offer (sometimes mandate) mentor partnerships for training and professional development purposes. Programs that may require you to have a mentor will often define goals and responsibilities of both the mentor and mentee during the short term or long term engagement. Scheduled meetings, documentation, and clearly communicated milestones are often incorporated in order to track measurable outcomes.

While you may not be involved in a structured mentor-mentee program at the moment, you are urged to independently identify a professional within a field of your interest, or someone who is aware of your academic and professional goals and can support your growth. You and that selected mentor can together define the type of agreed upon mentor-mentee partnership that is right for the both of you. Share with them your purpose in gathering information about them. Ask your mentor questions about their career path and experiences; find out what they did to prepare for their career, their likes and dislikes. Show them your level of commitment to learning about a certain line of work and interest in getting their perspective.

Learning from a mentor that is genuinely interested in you, invested in helping you see your potential, and supports your interests can be a valuable experience. Developing a professional network through your mentor is important, as there are often doors that can be opened based on the relationships that you have built with individuals who can speak to your passions, work ethic, character, and growth. For more information about the value of mentorship opportunities, contact