Have you ever helped someone learn something difficult? Perhaps taught your younger brother or sister to tie their shoes or helped a friend with their homework? Then you've been a mentor.
A mentor is someone who has done something you would like to try and is willing to share their experience with you. They can offer advice and encouragement to help you achieve your goals. Ideally, a mentor is a teacher, coach, guide, and cheerleader -- all rolled into one. Having a mentor is a great help as you explore a career and plan for your future.
There are lots of different ways to find a mentor -- and even more ways to work with one. Some college students and working women take advantage of formal mentoring programs through their school or company. Many others find mentors by just meeting someone or by seeking out a person who is successful at the things they would like to do.
Here are some ideas to help you find a mentor:
Talk to your family and friends (your "network") about the things that interest you.
A mentor can be a friend, a relative, or someone in your community you trust who is willing the help you achieve your goals. You talk with them on a regular basis about your ideas and ask their opinion about what things you can do to be able to follow your dreams.
Keep watch for stories about people who are successful.
Sometimes a mentor is someone you've never met and maybe never will; someone you read about in a paper or magazine. They could be someone you learn about while surfing the Internet, like one of the women profiled in the Gallery of Women Engineers on this website. Perhaps you can send a letter or e-mail message asking if they have any advice for someone like you.
Sometimes a great mentor can be found on the shelves of your school or local library. History is full of great stories about people who overcame great obstacles to succeed and reach their dreams. Reading about them or watching TV documentaries of their life stories can inspire you and give you ideas about how you too, can achieve greatness.
Remember: There are no hard rules to finding and working with a mentor. Mentoring is a way of learning from other people's experiences and seeking help to develop the skills you need to reach your goals. Since your goals and the skills you will need to achieve them will change over time, you may have several different mentors throughout your life.
Need more help finding a mentor? Try MentorNet! Among the top mentoring programs in the world, MentorNet has now opened its doors to anyone wanting to enter a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field who has a qualified .edu email address.