A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor interested in helping you achieve your goals and dreams. A mentor can be anyone from a teacher or coach to a faculty member, teaching assistant, lab technician or an experienced friend—anyone with experience who can offer guidance and support.
There are many benefits to having a mentor. Not only academically, but professionally and personally too.
Here are five reasons why you should consider finding a mentor while at university:
1. Mentors are wise
Mentors provide valuable information and knowledge from their lived experiences that you may not receive in a classroom.
Especially for someone like me, who is both a first-generation woman of colour and the first post-secondary student in my family, learning from another person's first-hand experience is invaluable.
Having parents or siblings that have gone through this system is a huge privilege, but if you don't have that option for support, you can find it through a mentor!
2. Mentors can provide constructive criticism
A mentor can help you improve your skills by providing helpful feedback. My academic writing skills have skyrocketed due to the feedback I receive from professors and research supervisors.
It's essential—and admittedly sometimes tricky—to accept constructive criticism, however, it's important not to take it as a personal attack. Though the feedback is about your work/performance, it is about how you can grow your skills and not about your value as a person.
3. Mentors encourage you to take risks
Your mentor will help you expand on your skills by urging you to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. While this can be scary, it is a great way to grow and learn from new experiences.
For example, I had the opportunity to travel across Canada to take part in nationally-recognized conferences. I even presented at two of them because my mentors encouraged me to put myself out there.
Was I terrified to present to large groups of academics who knew much more than I did? You bet! But, my mentors helped prepare me every step of the way, and I am so grateful for that experience.
4. Mentors offer constant encouragement
While your mentor will be like a cheerleader for your success, they will also be honest about when you need to take a break.
If you are a nerd like me, relaxing is something that does not come naturally. While this is sometimes glorified in our society, the truth is that it can be dangerous for your health.
A good mentor helps you develop self-care skills that work for you and encourages you to engage in them daily. This enables you to take the time necessary to support your physical and mental health to prevent burnout so that you can fully engage in your tasks and goals.
5. Mentors are great people to share ideas with
They can also provide you with the necessary resources to get the ball rolling. They are honest about what is achievable and can help you determine the best approach for your goal.
They are also great at networking and can connect you with people who can further foster your learning and development.
Speaking of resources, here are some that I suggest looking into:
- Talk to your academic advisors. They know a lot about a variety of different topics and may be able to point you in the right direction.
- Check out Ontario Tech's Peer Leader Program. You can be matched with a Peer Leader who will support you during your university journey!
- Visit the Student Learning Centre. They offer academic support, career readiness, and health and wellness resources to help you succeed during your time at Ontario Tech.
The biggest lie I have ever been told about university is that you must do it alone. Unlearning that has been challenging yet so rewarding. Being able to let others guide you takes tremendous strength and humility, and having a mentor can make a world of difference in all areas of your life.
I genuinely believe that it takes a village to thrive in this world. Mentorship is the first step towards building the community and support you need to challenge you to be your best self!