They say knowledge is power. They should also say that knowledge can be gleaned in endless ways from many sources. To be a well-rounded student or professional, consider mentorship, even if you’re at an advanced stage of your career. No matter how much you know, you can always know more. Here are five ways that finding a mentor can take your education or career to new heights.
1. You can ask questions.
A lot of questions. Unlike in school or the office where you’re one person among many, a mentorship is often a one-on-one learning relationship. This means that any and all questions you have, from the seemingly mundane to the critically important, are on the table. You don’t have to worry about sounding ignorant, and can ask your mentor about their personal experiences and what they have learned from their hits and misses. Asking questions also applies to peer-to-peer mentorships, which can be found on the Bear Down Network.
2. You’ll discover the “why.”
On campus, teachers break down the fundamentals of how to do something: grammar lessons for writing, formulas for science, equations for calculus. The same is true in the workplace, where you may understand how to perform a task but, at the same time, may not have the full picture of how that task ripples out to other aspects of your employer’s business. Knowing how to structure sentences and calculate right angles are essential skills, but a mentor can illuminate why it’s useful to apply knowledge, or how the greater scheme works.
3. You’ll have a sounding board.
While school programs allow you to tailor your education to a particular career trajectory, these programs aren’t as customized as a mentorship. Additionally, it isn’t always easy to openly talk with co-workers in the office. A mentor can act as a thoughtful, here-for-you sounding board: helping you to fine-tune your goals, hone your skills, analyze your choices and offer alternatives that you may not have considered. A professor specializes in specific topics and areas of expertise; a boss specializes in supervising work; a mentor specializes in you.
Further, Tremain Ravenell, assistant director of alumni careers and professional development at the UA Alumni Association, notes how students have found mentorships useful in areas beyond careers. “They often become more based on soft skills,” he says. “The career is a piece of it, but just one piece.” Calling on a mentor for help with non-career problems can be a hidden wellspring of great value, even as you grapple with problems in later stages of life.
4. You gain a stress-free feedback loop.
There’s something to be said for learning all you can while remaining unburdened by deadlines and exams. Teachers, professors and even bosses have to gauge your knowledge retention with a standardized set of measures. Mentorship, on the other hand, is designed for a freely flowing exchange of thoughts and ideas between two people, where no question is too silly, no answer is wrong and making mistakes along the way is encouraged.
5. You’ll embrace self-discovery.
At the UA, you embark on an external discovery of information. You memorize facts; you read chapters; you study history timelines. A mentorship lets you increasingly turn that discovery inward. No one can tell you whether you should be a news reporter or a civil engineer, a veterinarian or a nurse. That’s for you to decide. A mentor can deftly guide you along the way as you encounter challenges and make decisions. They’ll ask introspective questions, offer personal insights and empower you to seek personal growth, helping you become the best version of yourself.