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Why Mentors are Important for Teens – And How to Find One

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Older woman mentoring younger woman sitting at a computer.

Take a minute to Google a few commencement keynote speakers. In their speeches, they tend to always mention someone who inspired them to greatness. That someone is often a mentor.

A mentor can be anyone whom you admire and trust to help you become a better version of yourself, or who can help you understand the intricacies of, say, a particular profession. A mentor is vested in you and making sure you learn or experience what you need to reach your goals. A mentor is a helpmate, a teacher and a champion all rolled into one.

A mentor is ideally someone who has walked the path you wish to walk or someone whose career or achievements you admire. Life is full of unknowns, but if a mentor can help add a little clarity to one aspect of life, why not have one on your side?

Your mentor could be a teacher, a boss, a relative or even a trusted peer. Many professional athletes and entertainers credit their coaches or parents as the driving forces behind their success. You don’t have to be a pop star or world-renowned athlete to enjoy the benefits of a relationship with a mentor.

What can a mentor help you with?

Mentors are able to help you with many aspects of school and career. This doesn’t mean that they’re able to help you with everything. You shouldn’t expect, for example, for your mentor to fund your extracurricular activities or write your college admission essays. You shouldn’t expect your mentor to know all the answers or be the expert in everything relating to your prospective career, although a mentor can direct you on to how to find answers.

Most importantly, a mentor shouldn’t be expected to do all the work.

As the mentee, you must invest time, for example, in researching your career and college choices. Although your mentor might recommend a certain college or a certain major, it’s still your responsibility to do the research and answer targeted and relevant questions that will help you make informed decisions about your future.

You might be asking, what tangible thing can a mentor assist you with besides advice or guidance? Your mentor can write recommendations for you. Your mentor can help you study or can proofread your essays for college applications. Your mentor can give you access to people or experiences and help you network within your chosen field. You mentor might help you connect with someone for a internship.

A mentor can help you understand the pros and cons of a career or job in ways far different than just researching it on the internet. A mentor can give you an insider’s view.

So where do you find a mentor?

Potential mentors are all around you, such as the next-door neighbor who runs a freelance photography business or the director of your favorite animal shelter or your best pal’s mom who manages a company.

You can start by thinking about the kind of help you’d like to get from a mentor – what you’d like to learn or connections you’d like to make. Then, think about the adults you already know through school, working, volunteering, friends and neighbors, or school and extracurricular organizations.

Let’s say that you’re interested in becoming a teacher, but you don’t know where to start. Ask a teacher in your school to mentor you. She or he can outline the steps and skills involved in becoming a teacher, advise you on programs and activities, and introduce you to other people who can help or advise you with colleges, majors or opportunities to tutor.

Some schools even offer a mentoring program that pairs students with mentors in the community.There are also nonprofits that provide mentorship opportunities to youth. Ask in your guidance office about programs, or consider starting one of your own.

Even if you don’t know what your goals are, you can still benefit from a mentor. For those of you who are undecided about career or life goals, a mentor can help clarify the muddiness of young adult life.

Finding a mentor is not as difficult as it may sound. There are many people who love to share their stories of hurdles and successes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you admire to simply ask the question, “How can I get to where you are?”



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