Dear First Gen,
When I think about my journey, I am reminded that I did not arrive where I am today on my own. There were a few amazing advisors and mentors that guided me along the way. They offered me good advice that I share with my interns and others I believe would benefit from the information.
But it wasn't always easy to find a good mentor, either. There were instances when I sought someone to be my advisor/mentor and it yielded great results. Other times, I had to kindly distance myself from people because I no longer saw a benefit to our relationship.
When I was a student, my assigned career advisors served me well. I remain connected with a couple of them to this day. But there were several times I decided to venture out and speak to the head advisor.
In college, I attempted to meet with different advisors because they rotated in and out of the positions. I needed to meet with several of them so they would know my needs and be able to assist me when someone else was not available. In this case, I couldn't have a “regular” advisor.
I made it a point to meet with the Dean of the Career Development Office in undergrad because this individual was consistent and possessed invaluable information, like access to off-campus positions I needed for my field placement courses.
In law school, I scheduled advising appointments with the Dean of the Career Development Office as well. He had expertise about positions I was seeking and told me about the school’s reciprocity policy, which I used even after I graduated. My meetings with him were always helpful and I usually went to him even after I had met with the other advisors if they were unable to help me in the way I was looking for.
Whether I wanted to know how to work in a judge’s chamber or for a non-profit, locally or in my home state, my initial meeting with an advisor often clued me in how our working relationship would work. I became a good judge of not only who would be accepting of my numerous questions, but also who would give me a thorough explanation. I was looking for specific and actionable advice on the process or strategies to improve my chances of getting an internship or securing a job.
The common thread among each advisor I encountered was their willingness to help upon seeing that I was eager to be guided. They understood that I would not stop seeking their help until I obtained the results I was looking for. I sometimes learned after the fact that they talked with one another to find a different approach for helping me reach my goal.
Over the past 10 years, I have identified a key characteristic I look for in an effective mentor: their openness to serve as a mentor.