Featured Illustration: Femme Palette
When you want to travel somewhere new, you use a GPS. When you want to cook a new dish, you use a recipe. When you want to do a certain makeup look, you watch a tutorial. These broad statements may not apply to everyone, but for many, they center around the concept of a template: something that can support you on your conquest so that getting to your desired destination is easier, less stressful, and more successful.
Concerning our careers, mentors are just as important. Getting a certain degree or certificate cannot ensure you will make it to x company or make y amount of money. Work experience, volunteer experience, and extracurricular experience are incredibly valuable to set you apart from the crowd. But if you are anything like me, aspiring for a very competitive career, the entire process can be daunting and no amount of work may seem like it is enough.
Mentors are not confined to jobs. They can be therapists, family and relationship experts, or body positivity coaches. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s talk about your future. Dun dun dun.
I first encountered the Girls-E-Mentorship program from a senior student at my school. She described attending impressive seminars with Google and LinkedIn while becoming connected to an empowering all-female team. As I delved deeper into the charity, I understood its mission: providing girls facing barriers with the tools to succeed. I was impressed. Females are underrepresented in leadership roles, especially in the STEM field, and that is all the more exacerbated for women of color (especially those from Black and Indigenous communities). This charity was tackling systemic racism and classism head-on while many big brands claim they support minority empowerment without actions. I was matched to a female doctor who has guided me through university applications, has the mindset of a physician, and has embodied the role of a mentor and friend — somebody I can talk to about my favorite movie and somebody I can talk to when I need trusted advice.
Not everyone has the privilege of having a mentor and being well-connected with charities that provide it. There are opportunities out there, but they are limited in number and size. So, here are my 5 steps to finding a mentor.
1. What do you need help with?
You cannot pitch yourself to prospective coaches without understanding what it is that you need from them. People are incredibly busy and if you are unable to propose how they can specifically help you, you probably will not be successful. You do not need to tie down to a certain career, as even a field of interest is enough. Pertaining to healthcare, for example, you recognize your love for the health sciences, working with patients, and instant gratification, but choosing between medicine, nursing, and becoming a technologist is difficult. Choosing just one of these areas may be enough to expose you to a variety of careers.
2. Who can help me?
It is always easier to reach out to someone you already know. Maybe it is a teacher, a coach, a relative, or a friend that you have always been inspired by, but too timid to consult for advice. However, there are conflicts with being mentored by somebody who already knows you at a personal level: they may not be able to give you difficult advice, tell you the truth in certain situations, or they may hold back when you make a mistake. Weighing the pros and cons of contacting someone who knows you well and someone who does not know you well will allow for the best decision.
3. How do I contact them?
For those who you cannot shoot a text to or give a call to, searching for mentors on LinkedIn is a great choice. You can browse thousands of career professionals and see their skills, experiences, awards, and more. Beyond that, looking through the directories of your dream company or workplace also helps you hone in on the desired career coach.
4. What do I say?
Do not immediately send an email saying that you are searching for a mentor, as some people may not be equipped to coach you or others may be intimidated by the entire ordeal. Start by detailing your interest in their career and ask for a quick phone call. If you click with one another, continue contacting them regularly (if they show interest) until it slowly eases into a mentor-mentee relationship. Some professionals may have long-standing experiences in mentorship and for them, being more upfront with your wishes is beneficial.
5. Now what?
If both you and your mentor are comfortable with one another, keep in touch. Your mentors are valuable because they can answer your questions, provide personal experiences and advice, and can be supportive in applications and interviews.
Keep in mind, it is always easier to find a charity or program that offers organizing mentorship for you. These charities, like Girls-E-Mentorship, specialize in this and can be provided by your school, university, or college, too. You must ask questions about these opportunities so you do not have to go through the tedious process of finding a mentor yourself.
All in all, having a mentor can ease so many challenges in finding success, and ultimately, as you reach your dreams, there are plenty of people who may need your guidance as well.