As a second-year graduate student pursuing student affairs, I have had the ride of my life learning how to balance school, work, and relationships. While trying to maintain this balance, my values have solidified, and my relationships have become more meaningful and fulfilling. Mentors in my life have helped to guide me through these changes while keeping me grounded.
Having a mentor has been very important in my relatively short career in student affairs. I have found people outside of my department to talk to about my career goals, and these different perspectives have been really helpful. I turn to faculty members inside my department as well. Turns out, they have successfully balanced school, work, and personal relationships and lived to tell the tale — and offer some sage advice.
The most important thing mentors have taught me is to follow my own path. I usually go to them when I’m faced with a seemingly huge decision, and I leave feeling relieved. The key to a great mentoring relationship is knowing how I problem-solve. For me, that means knowing that I need to talk things out. When I talk to someone whom I view as an authority, I feel a greater sense of validation.
Mentors play a different role in my life than family and friends do. I can tell my Mom anything; I respect her opinion, and she will support me no matter what. But what I need in a mentor is someone to challenge me and offer a different perspective. And that perspective is inherent in the relationship: This person has not known me since I was a baby. This person doesn’t go window shopping with me on Saturdays. This person knows me purely as a professional or a student, and she or he can offer input in that part of my life.
It is an honor to be considered someone’s mentor, and I would feel accomplished if anyone referred to me as such. It is easy to miss opportunities to help someone else, but offering something as simple as another perspective can be the first step toward mentoring. I always hope to be a role model to the undergraduate staff whom I supervise, but I think for National Mentoring Month, I will charge myself to search earnestly for those mentoring relationships and positively impact those around me.
I want to offer a thank-you to all of the mentors who might not know they have had an impact on a student, a supervisee, or colleague. Maybe today you can take the time to thank your mentors and help brighten their day, as they have done for you.
This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Kelly Kay Clark.