5 Things You Need to Know About Finding a Mentor - Schmidlap's Tips for the Adult Student

5 Things Adult Students Need to Know About Finding a Mentor

Professor Schmidlap is the personal professional mascot for the College of Adult and Graduate Studies at Colorado Christian University. Like all CCU professors, he enjoys helping students succeed both in life and in their academic studies. We caught up with him and he shared advice for adult students on finding a mentor.

“Patience you must have my young padawan.” – Yoda

The truth is, we all need a Yoda in our lives. And by that, I don’t mean a little green dude who sounds wise by saying his verbs at the end of a sentence.

I mean someone who has a bit more life experience than us. Someone who can offer advice, encouragement, and point out things that we might not otherwise see in our own lives. Someone who is a mentor.

I’m going to share with you a little bit of wisdom from my own experience in this area. These are the top five things that I believe adult students need to know about finding a mentor.

#1 - A mentor is not your tutor or study partner.

This one makes me chuckle. I’ve had students ask me to mentor them because they need help with class assignments. As flattering as that may be, and even though many mentors including myself probably could help out with assignments, that’s missing the bigger picture.

A mentor isn’t an extra teacher to help you figure out your assignments and write your term papers. That’s what tutors are for, and it would be a waste of the value that a true mentorship can bring.

So…why would someone want a mentor?

A mentor is someone who can teach you about life and career goals, with some academic advice sprinkled in here and there. A mentor generally has more work experience than you, so they can advise you on the up-and-coming skills you will need to succeed in your field. They can also provide you some general advice on how to stay organized and where to look for answers to your questions.

The most important thing to remember is that a mentor is someone who cares enough about your success to not do the work for you. Instead, they will guide you in a general direction so that you can discover answers for yourself.

#2 - A mentor is not going to fall out of the sky.

Most people don’t find their mentor by simply running into them. It’s a process, and it takes action on your part to find one.

So…where can you find a mentor?

Adult students have a unique experience as a student, because you are juggling a lot of responsibilities. You’re going to need someone who understands what it’s like to juggle work, a family, coursework, and more. A mentor for you could be a professor, a co-worker, another adult student, a family member, or even a friend.

Before my daughter went back to school, I encouraged her to connect with the women’s group at our church. That allowed her to develop relationships with women from multiple generations, and she ended up really connecting with a few of them who continued to mentor and advise her while she went to school.

Keep in mind that mentors don’t always have to be right there next to you. Personally, I always felt that I had been mentored by C.S. Lewis and Augustine through the wisdom I read in their books; and that was in addition to mentors I already had in my life. With books, you have access to the wisdom of many people from all walks of life.

#3 - A mentor usually won't be the one to find you.

As I mentioned before, you’re going to have to take the initiative to find a mentor. People don’t usually set out to find themselves a mentee, it is up to you to find and connect with your mentor.

At the same time, there are people out there who very frequently get asked to be a mentor. These folks tend to be high-level professionals, and as a result, they prefer to turn the tables by seeking out those they would personally like to mentor.

So…how do you choose your mentor?

I usually advise my students to consider why they are looking for a mentor. Do they want someone who can help guide them to succeed in school? Do they want someone who can give them career advice? Or do they want someone to keep them accountable in their faith walk?

Once you understand what you are looking for, keep your eyes open. Chances are that you have already had people in your life who were mentors and influential to you in one way or another. You might find that those people are more than willing to continue in a more formal mentorship role. And, you don’t have to have just one mentor. Not everyone is going to live exactly the life that you want, so you can draw on wisdom from multiple people.

Schmidlap as a mentor

I would encourage you to choose someone who you trust and who you think makes good decisions. For a more thorough description of what that looks like, I suggest you read some passages from the Bible. Start with 1 Timothy 3 and the book of Titus.

Lastly, this person should be willing and available to invest some of their time with you. Whether it’s face-to-face in a coffee shop (mmm…coffee), through weekly phone calls, or via email, it should be a consistent and agreed upon amount of time. When you connect with that person, let them know up front how often you want to talk with them so that the expectations for both people are clear.

If you decide to connect via phone, I usually suggest that my students put it on their calendar and initiate the call themselves. People get busy, and since you are the one looking for advice, there’s no reason why you can’t go for it.

#4 - A mentor is not going to ask you if they can be your mentor.

You need to do the asking. As an adult student, you know what kind of advice you are looking for, so you are going to need to own that process for yourself.

So…how do you ask someone to be your mentor?

My advice? Keep it simple. Don’t go all out like you’re asking someone to the junior prom.Try your best to not make it awkward, even if it feels awkward for you to ask.

If you want to ask a professor or academic advisor, get to know them a little bit and then just ask them if they are willing. Many of us in higher education expect this sort of thing to be part of our job.

If you decide to ask a co-worker, friend, or another adult student, just explain to them that you are looking for some support for your career and academic goals, and that you were wondering if you could connect with them on a regular basis to talk about it.

#5 - A mentor is not going to give you a job.

The fact that I have to mention this is a little…awkward. I’ve heard stories where students have connected with people and asked for them to be mentors simply because they would one day like to work with that person’s employer.

Avoid this kind of reasoning when seeking out a mentor because not only does it limit the people that you are considering, it also puts unnecessary pressure on the mentoring relationship.

So…what kinds of things can you ask a mentor?

If your mentor happens to work with an employer you would one day love to work with, that’s fine, but don’t expect them to give you a job just because you asked them to mentor you.

The purpose of a mentorship is to guide you toward the resources and learning experiences that you will need to be successful in your chosen field. They can tell you about specific skills you should seek training on, books you should read, conferences you should attend, and might even be willing to introduce you to people in their network. These resources have much more long-term benefits than finding you a job.

One of the things that I love about teaching for CCU, is that faculty are expected to do more than assign coursework to students. Because we are a Christ-centered university, all of the faculty are united with the idea that we are here to mentor and encourage growth in our students.

Because of this, I’ve had the pleasure of advising my students on their career goals in addition to their coursework. And while it takes a bit of effort and extra time to make a mentoring relationship work, I’ve learned just as much, if not more, from my students in the process.

 

Contact our enrollment counselors at 303-963-3311 or visit AdultEd.ccu.edu to learn more about how you can apply for our College of Adult And Graduate Studies.

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Professor Schmidlap, finding a mentor, adult student, Schmidlaps tips, Colorado Christian University, adult learners, mentorship
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