A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor; somebody who takes a special interest in helping someone else become a successful professional.
A mentor can be anyone from a teacher or coach, to a faculty member, teaching assistant, lab technician or an experienced friend.
In essence, a mentor can be any other person with experience who offers you continuing guidance and support.
There are many advantages to having a mentor. Where do I even begin?!
There are very many benefits to having a mentor, in my experience. 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 might not receive from theoretical, traditional classroom experiences.
Especially for someone like me, a first-generation, woman of colour, and the first ever of my entire lineage to pursue post-secondary education, this is super valuable.
Having parents or siblings that have gone through this system is a huge privilege. If you don't have that privilege, find it through a mentor!
2. Mentors can provide constructive criticism
A mentor can help you improve certain skills that could use development through providing helpful feedback.
My academic writing skills have skyrocketed in the past year due to the constant feedback I have received from professors and research supervisors.
It's important—and admittedly sometimes difficult—to let your ego go and accept advice from those who know what they're talking about.
3. Mentors encourage you to take risks
And they won't let you fall...too hard.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel across Canada throughout the past year to take part in nationally-recognized conferences.
I've even been able to present at two of them! How come? My mentors pushed into putting myself out there.
Was I terrified to present to groups of academics who know so much more than I do? Uh, duh! But, my mentors helped to prepare me every step of the way.
From guiding me through the proposal writing process through to helping me prepare for the presentation, I never felt alone.
Mentors help to push us out of our comfort zones, which realistically, is where we need to go if we want to grow!
4. Mentors offer constant encouragement
But they're also real about when you need to take a break.
If you are a keener 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.
Also, if you're as stubborn as I am, sometimes you need to receive a direct order from a mentor to chill out!
A good mentor helps you to develop the self-care skills that work for you. This helps you take the time you need to support your physical and mental health and prevent burnout.
5. Mentors are great people to share ideas with
They can also set you up with the resources you need to get the ball rolling.
My mentors are great people for me to discuss my wildest research dreams with. They are honest with me about what is achievable versus what is less realistic in the time frame of a Master’s degree.
They are also great at networking, and have put me in contact with some great people that can further foster my learning and development.
Speaking of resources, here as 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 or become one!
- Visit the Student Learning Centre via the Student Life website. They have resources about academic support, career readiness, and health and wellness.
The biggest lie that I have ever been told is that I have to go it alone. Unlearning that lie has been challenging, yet so rewarding.
Being able to let others guide you takes great strength and humility. If you can let your ego go, it can make a world of difference in all areas of your life.
I truly 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 always challenge you to be your best self!
As always, I hope that my insights have proven useful. Thanks for reading!