Becoming a mentee
When you have an important decision to make – whether or not to accept an internship, how a study abroad can help your future, dealing with a challenge in the student organization you’re an officer in – who do you turn to? Having a relationship with a trusted mentor can guide you through making tough decisions and help you grow by learning what’s most important to you.
A mentor can be someone who has something in common with you – gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity – or someone who has experience in a research area or career you want to pursue, or a combination of all these things.
There are many different programs and resources that can help to connect you with a mentor. A great place for UW students to start is our Mentoring Opportunities webpage, where you can find a list of UW mentoring programs that can help you connect with a mentor based on your interests, goals, and needs. You may also already know someone in your life or community who could be a great mentor to you. Mentors are people in our lives who offer us support and guidance that is often informed by their own experiences. You may find that you already have a mentor in the form of an adviser, professor, colleague, or even a peer.
Think about what you are hoping to gain from your mentoring relationship and what qualities would be helpful for you to find in a mentor. Your mentor should be someone that you trust and can turn to for advice and support. Some things to consider about your future mentor may include their academic, personal, and/or professional experiences; hobbies or interests; professional networks; and aspects of their identity that they may share with you, such as race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or other characteristics that are important to you.
As a mentee, one of your main priorities is to be open to learning! Be prepared to engage in your mentoring relationship by sharing your thoughts, asking questions, and actively listening to your mentor’s responses and advice. Don’t be afraid to be creative and innovative in your approach to learning – if you think of activities or exercises that you think will help you (e.g. job shadowing, attending talks or workshops together, etc.), it never hurts to ask your mentor if they would be open to participating. Although you, as a mentee, are seeking guidance and support, you can also help your mentor help you by working with them to shape your shared mentorship experience.
Joining a mentorship program is not necessary but can be a great way to connect with a mentor if you are unsure of where to start or who to turn to. Mentorship programs simply offer more structure to the mentorship process by providing mentee/mentor matching, a plan or framework for reaching mentoring relationship goals, and – oftentimes – support for both mentees and mentors so that each can make the most of their mentorship experience. However, many mentoring relationships form organically outside of the context of these programs through shared experiences when those involved recognize that a mentoring relationship could be beneficial.
The time commitment for mentoring relationships varies. If you are participating in a mentorship program, there may be requirements or recommendations for the amount of time you and your mentor spend meeting or otherwise connecting with each other. Beyond or outside of structured programs, a mentoring relationship may take as little or as much time as you choose to commit to it. However, as with many commitments, you will get out what you put into it! The more often you connect with your mentor (while being respectful of their time availability), the more you will gain and learn from your relationship with them.
Get to know your mentor and start asking questions! Share your goals for the mentorship connection – they may be academic, personal, professional, or a combination of these things. This will help your mentor identify how it is they can best support you. It may also be helpful to discuss expectations for how you will communicate (e.g. email, phone, in-person, etc.), how structured or informal your mentoring relationship will be, and how frequently you would like to connect with each other. This, of course, may change over time, but setting an initial plan can help get things started.
Conversing with your mentor may seem unnatural or uncomfortable at first, but your mentor is there to support and guide you in any way that they can! Start by getting to know each other – your goals, shared interests, and experiences. Then, depending on what you hope to gain from your mentoring relationship, you might ask for advice, insight on how they would navigate a certain situation, help with networking or connecting with resources, support in developing or strengthening a new skill, or simply hear stories about their personal journeys and how they got to where they are now.