How to succeed in college: Part 8

The next suggestion for how to succeed in college provided by Jeff Beals in his LinkedIn article was “Find a mentor.” Some schools have official mentoring programs, so if you feel yourself floundering, be sure to investigate if this is an option. Beals tells you that a mentor can be a professor, a staff member, or another student, but I think the best mentor you can find should be your academic advisor. I italicized the word “should” because I am a realist—not all academic advisors are going to be good mentors. So rather than suggest who you go to when you need a mentor, I’m going to offer a list of the qualities you should look for in a mentor—and leave it up to you to decide who best meets your mentoring needs.

So what exactly do we mean when we talk about mentors? I think a good mentor is someone who

  • Will take the time to listen to you and really hear what it is that you’re concerned about.
  • Has the relevant experience to respond appropriately.
  • Is trustworthy and will not discuss your problems or concerns with others.
  • Can and will refer you to other resources if he or she isn’t able to help you.
  • Models positive behaviors.
  • Helps you see things from other perspectives.
  • Teaches you to help yourself instead of relying on others to solve your problems.
  • Will share their own personal experiences during your interactions (and trust you not to break the confidence).
  • Allows and encourages you to grow and develop as a distinct, confident individual.

Your ability to seek out and learn from a mentor while you’re in college is a skill set that will serve you well after college. First of all, you will have developed a relationship with a mentor that can continue after graduation, but more important, you will have learned the value of a mentor. When you start a new job, keep your eyes and ears open for a more senior co-worker who can serve as a mentor as you learn to cope, grow, and thrive in the new setting.