One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve been given is to build up the amount of people in your corner. This may make little sense right now, but in context, it really sets the tone for what can make or break your success in college and beyond.
All throughout our academic careers we are told to find a mentor. We all know the general definition of a mentor is someone with experience that will essentially help “show you the ropes”. It it’s not that this definition is wrong, but it is missing key elements that would help students understand the true potential of what having a great mentor could look like.
A mentor-mentee relationship is a special type of relationship, and it satisfies its own specific type of need. While friendly or romantic relationships satisfy needs of companionship, love and intimacy, mentorship is unique in that it is one of the few forms of relationships with primary focuses of expanding personal capacity, goal setting, and role modeling at its core. It is a relationship that is meant to bring about success in the process, but even deeper, it’s foundation stands in a mutual drive to invest time, effort, and resources to cultivate growth and learning.
What is really important to about this is that every experienced person you that helps you is not a mentor.
Any experienced person can lend out a helping hand. However, the difference between a mentor and a helpful person is the level of emotional investment. Look for those mentors that not only give you access to network and resources, but also invest their emotional capital and support in your journey. Look for a mentor that can teach you to be your own advocate in the workplace, one that lets you know of your inherent professional and personal worth even as an intern. Choose a mentor that matches your values, such as honesty, confidentially, and ambition, to help you stay true to yourself when you feel a little lost in pushes and pulls of professional life.
Viewing a mentor-mentee relationship through this lens allows us to realize a few things:
- Mentors are essential to have
- Just like a friendly or romantic relationship, you should choose your mentors carefully
- The relationship is mutual, so look for ways to help your mentor grow as well
Over the summer at my internship at the Human Rights Campaign and my amazing summer experience at Google, I was so lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who just want to see interns thrive (and believe me, people actually love helping students). However, what set mentors apart was their repeated actions to foster a personal and well-rounded relationship with me where I could be vulnerable.
Luckily, I can safely say that this summer, I gained five new people who will be in my corner, energetically and loudly pushing me to continue to fight for the future I deserve and want for myself. I will forever be thankful to them for believing in me and for opening doors for myself and many others.
Na’kia is a student at the University of Michigan pursuing a BA in Organizational Studies and a BA in International Studies. She is heavily involved in the Michigan Daily as a Senior Editor of the section Michigan in Color. When she’s not editing her LinkedIn, creating fun to-do lists, or reading about Google, you can find her reading poetry, meeting new and interesting people, listening to comedy podcasts, and chasing her cat.