In a Gallup-Purdue survey of 30,000 graduating college students, only 22% reported having a mentor who “encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.”
As someone so strongly committed to the value of mentorship, and the goal of helping college students reach their full-potential, I found this statistic staggering.
To the 78% of students who reported not having a mentor, I am sincerely sorry. I hope that one emerges as you have transitioned into your professional career.
There may be a desire to place blame on colleges, or students, for not making better mentoring relationships possible.
I don’t attempt to do so either, as I believe many colleges are working to create engaging programs which might help.
Students, likewise, shouldn’t be held responsible, as often they are unaware of the true value of mentors in their educational journey.
Instead, I want to offer some of the advantages for you, as a student, to finding a mentor.
The four things I believe all great mentors provide are:
A mentor will provide you with encouragement, of course, but they will also challenge you to live up to the expectations you have established for yourself.
If you desire to be on the Dean’s List, your mentor is the one who will remind you of the goal, over and over, and check to see if you are making suitable progress.
Not going to class? Spending too much time on extra-curricular or social endeavors?
Your mentor will be there to bring you back to your priorities.
2) Asking tough questions
As a person invests in you, they will also begin to ask you more deep and probing questions.
From time to time, these will also be the ones that make you most uncomfortable.
However, if the person is sincere, and offering you valuable coaching, you should expect them to ask you “tough” questions.
One of my personal favorites is “why does this matter?”
Answering that question, I have found, is often quite difficult!
3) Telling you what you need to hear
When you have successes, many people will congratulate you.
When you have failures, some will attempt to console you.
But your mentor, by virtue of the fact they care, will say what you need to hear at the appropriate moment.
As your relationship evolves, and trust is built, sometimes what they tell you is “brutal” honesty.
Think of the phrase tough love—for some reason everyone looks at the love, and forgets the tough.
If someone is coaching you, and they truly care, you can expect a bit of both.
4) Listening without judgment
We all have fears, doubts, and vulnerabilities—but, when we have a true mentoring relationship, we can share them openly.
When I speak with my mentors, sometimes I will start by asking them to let me get things off my chest.
The best mentors, I have found, will listen patiently, allowing me to share what I need, and then offer me sound, reflective and meaningful feedback.
Sometimes this is the entry-point to tough love!
These are but a few of the advantages to a mentoring relationship.
More than anything, I want to advocate for the idea that establishing one means you don’t have to go it alone in college or as you transition into the next phase of life.
Please don’t wait for a mentor to arrive—seek out those you admire, someone playing a central role in your collegiate experience, or who might offer you the type of support to help you achieve your goals and dreams.