Importance of Having a Mentor

Importance of Having a Mentor

By: Nicole Strutt
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While Co-op jobs, summer internships, volunteering and networking are often emphasized for students, one opportunity that is often not mentioned as frequently is the idea of having a mentor. Mentors act as resources to students to provide future networking opportunities and become a valuable resource throughout your lifetime. Most importantly they give the confidence that students sometimes lack while applying for work during or after they have finished school. 

An interesting example is Dave Wilkin, founder of Redwood Strategic who decided to start his own business after his mentor Mia believed that he had would it took to be successful. As Wilkin states, “Five weeks later I had a company name, some business cards, and my very first sales”. For Dave Wilkin’s full story continue here.

Dave and myself included could not have gotten to where we are today, without the help of a mentor or two to guide and support our journey. Continue below to discover resources on where to find a mentor for yourself.

Resources to Find a Mentor

1. Student Organizations and Clubs On Campus

 Joining a club or a student organization has reaping benefits for students, including an opportunity to find a mentor. It is important to note that a mentor does not have to be double your age to be a mentor. They can be a year older or can be a student of any age that has relevant experience.  

Currently I am involved in the student organization AIESEC, which facilitates international exchanges. When I first considered being involved with AIESEC, I was at the end of my second year at SFU and grappling with how to gain applicable experience in my field of study. After applying and fortunately being accepted into AIESEC, I quickly learned how lucky I was to be surrounded with a number of leaders that would later become my mentors.

I know when I joined AIESEC I was really eager (and still am) to learn and to grow. It is important when you join an organization to take advantage of the people that are there. They may indirectly become a mentor or they could become someone who can provide valuable information about your future career or university experience. 

Many of the organizations/clubs/unions/societies at Simon Fraser University have so many resources and opportunities available to take advantage of. Check out your faculty for different organizations available (like joining the Health Sciences Student Union or the Interactive Arts and Technology Student Union) or take up personal interests like ballroom dancing. Both experiences are excellent resources and provide great exposure to valuable mentors.

2. Join an Off Campus Organization with Industry Professionals

Joining an off campus organization/association/affiliation or membership related to your major or career interest area is a great idea. However, once you have graduated from university it can be very costly ranging from $200-$300 per year (often more). Joining a professional organization while you are still enrolled in school or as a recent alumnus significantly keeps the costs down. More importantly getting involved allows you to establish and build your network of people within your industry, some of which may even become a short or long term mentor.  

Check out Charity Village here for an alphabetical list of Canadian Associations that could get you started.

3. Ten Thousand Coffees 

Ten Thousand Coffees gives great opportunities for youth to build solid relationships with industry professionals that have the possibility of growing into lasting mentorships. 

Ten Thousand Coffees* is a website created by youth for Canadian youth that helps students, recent grads or young professionals starting out, connect with industry professionals within their field of study or work. The Ten Thousand Coffees process works as:  1) You make a profile online; 2) Browse the experts online that you would want to meet up with; 3) Invite them for a coffee, Skype video or even a telephone chat; 4) When the expert accepts your invitation, set up a time and place to meet and start talking! 

*It is important to note that while Ten Thousand Coffees is an excellent opportunity for students, it is important to be careful and demonstrate due diligence when meeting with individuals.

 4. Leaders of Tomorrow 

Leaders of Tomorrow is a well-known program put on by the Vancouver Board of Trade for over 15 years. Leaders of Tomorrow give students in their final year of study at a post-secondary institution the opportunity to build a lasting mentor relationship. This organization provides opportunities in mentorship, networking, leadership and volunteerism to ensure that students are workplace ready. 

Closing Thoughts 

Having a mentor is an often overlooked resource that can be valuable for your entire lifetime. Take the step today to look for a mentor in your community, school, and professional organization to build a relationship that can help your professional future. You definitely will not regret it! 

Beyond the Article

  *Lead image: creative-commons licensed photo by Michael Heiss

Posted on February 20, 2014