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January 15, 2021, by stykjsk

What Is a Mentor… and Do I Really Need One?

By Katy Skillen MNutr Master of Nutrition and Dietetics, third year

“I’ve found a mentor!”

Recently, my housemate told me that she’s found a careers mentor for herself, and I was actually really surprised. I hadn’t heard of many people getting mentors before and didn’t really understand what a mentor is. So, let me break it down…

Basically, a careers mentor is someone that can support and encourage you along your careers journey to help you maximise your potential, develop skills, improve your performance and become the person you want to be!

My housemate is a mechanical engineer, and she often finds herself being the only woman in a lot of male dominated environments. Therefore, it was such an exciting achievement for her to find a career driven, successful female engineer that agreed to be her mentor! So, it made me think: should we all begin the search for a mentor?

Think about why you want a mentor

You may be applying for internships or graduate schemes, or you just want a bit of encouragement and someone to chat to. Decide what you’re looking for in your mentor. Is it someone to help you with networking or someone to help you build those invaluable career skills? Are you looking for someone with lots of experience, or someone more similar to yourself? Once you know what you’re looking for this will make the search a lot easier.

 Make sure you click!

A mentor should be someone you can relate to and have a good connection with. Try making a list of desirable traits that you look for in someone in order to find a mentor that aligns with your values. After all, you are going to go to your mentor for lots of advice. Mentoring is a long-term process and is about overall development, so finding someone you feel comfortable with is so important.

Choose someone you admire

Find a mentor who you respect and whose opinions you hold in high esteem. It can be someone who has achieved your dream career and you want to follow in their footsteps. Or, maybe someone you just believe has so much experience and knowledge that you can’t wait to bombard them with questions. Remember, mentoring is relationship-based, not performance-based – so having a strong rapport with the person is paramount.

Just be bold!

A lot of the time, your dream mentor isn’t going to ask you to be their mentee, which means you have to make the first move! Yes, it can be scary, and you may well get rejected by a few mentors (they may not have the time for mentoring) but don’t give up. When starting the conversation, tell them a bit about yourself and what motivates you. Explain why you want a mentor, what you’re looking for from them and why they are your ideal choice. LinkedIn and social media can be great ways to connect with people you admire.

Take the lead

And finally – use your mentor! Arrange regular meetings with them, ask them all your questions, and let them know what you want guidance with. Let your mentor know what your goals are, so that they can hold you accountable to achieving them!

So, let the search begin… good luck!

Our Career Mentoring programme for the spring term is now open for applications until Sunday 31 January. On the webpage you can read about the experiences of a range of students who have benefited from the advice of their mentor.  Hot off the press: Career mentoring is now accredited through the Nottingham Advantage Award.

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