Just like friendships and intimate relationships, the definition of a mentorship and one’s relationship with a mentor will vary depending on the individual. For instance, some may have a group of individuals they consider to be mentors, while others may only have one mentor. Some individuals talk to their mentors a couple times throughout the year, while others have weekly conversations. It is important for Student Affairs professionals to define what it means to them to have a mentor, what qualities they seek in a mentor, and what that relationship looks like to them.
Who are my mentors? I consider myself to have three mentors: a professor I had during graduate school, my supervisor as a graduate assistant at Slippery Rock University, and my internship supervisor at Carnegie Mellon University. Each of these individuals possesses qualities that I value, such as authenticity, passion for student development, and knowledge of the Student Affairs field.
How did I choose my mentors? My mentorships have happened gradually and organically. I did not walk into my professor’s class and say “I want you to be my mentor!” Rather, my mentors are people I connected with during specific experiences, such as during my internship, and I decided to keep in touch with them and continue to learn from them after the experience ended. Also, in some ways my mentors chose me. They decided to invest in my development and provide additional support beyond what was expected of their role (i.e. professor, supervisor). Therefore, if you have a supervisor or someone that you admire, I encourage you to get to know that person better. For instance, you can make an appointment with your internship supervisor to learn about his or her career story. If you are a graduate assistant, ask your supervisor to review your cover letter or resume and call him or her when you are offered the job. Relationships require work and effort, and mentorships are no different.
How have my mentorships affected my professional development? Although I have been fortunate to come across many professionals whom I admire, these three individuals have taken a genuine interest in my holistic development and have provided me with consistent support. For instance, my graduate assistant supervisor has visited me twice since I have been hired at Kent State University, my professor from graduate school had coffee with me one day in order to discuss a big decision I was facing at the time, and I talked with my mentor from my internship at Carnegie Mellon University over lunch for a few hours at ACPA last year. Each of my mentors helped me through my job search, practiced mock interviews with me, expanded my professional network in Student Affairs, and has given me the confidence to progress professionally.
What is the benefit of having a mentor? In my opinion, mentorships are necessary for professional growth. Without the support of my three mentors, I know my professional journey thus far would have been more difficult. There are many benefits of having a mentor in the field, such as objective professional advice, wisdom from someone who climbed the career ladder, and knowledge about working in Student Affairs. Frankly, I cannot go to my parents, friends, or sibling for professional advice. It is not because they do not care about me or are not professional. Rather, it is because they do not know me as a professional or what it means to be a professional in the Student Affairs field. I still have to explain my responsibilities as an academic advisor during holiday dinners!
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read this article. I encourage you to write comments below about how you found your mentor(s), your definition of mentorship, and qualities of a mentor that are important to you!
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.