Mentorship 101: How to Find the Yoda to Your Luke Skywalker

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Do I even like my major? What am I doing with my life? We’ve all felt rattled at some point while riding the college-rollercoaster. But thankfully, a little external guidance is all we need. Imagine having your own personal Yoda to help you through tough decisions and train you in the ways of success. A mentor can teach you to “use the force” and conquer that scary thing called real life hiding four years around the corner.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away–students lived in their parents’ basements after college, void of any hopes for success. That was until they stumbled upon these helpful tips. “Students who trust and admire a professor or an advisor will certainly do better when it comes to finding jobs,” said UW-Madison journalism professor Katy Culver. A mentor can help determine if your current major is the right for you, not to mention write you a phenomenal reference.

Who is a mentor?

Your mentor doesn’t always have to be an omnipotent Jedi master. Culver said that the best role models are the people who know how to live and enjoy life. A mentor is simply someone who keeps you on track and brings out your passions.

While your best friend can help you survive a bad day and choose a flattering outfit better than anyone else, don’t expect her to help you master your future. Look for someone with roots in the professional world. “I think everyone needs someone to talk to,” UW-Madison advisor Anna Stevens said. “But you should have someone to talk to other than your best friend. Your closest friend is not the best suited person to guide you through given things.” I’m sure your friends would write you a beaming letter of recommendation, but unfortunately potential employers won’t care how passionate you are about karaoke.

Where do I find my mentor?

With Netflix and your cozy bed calling your name, attending your professors’ office hours may be the last thing you want to do during your free time. Take this task off the back burner and try to live by this rule of thumb: Attend professors’ office hours at least twice a semester and TA’s office hours four times. If you feel any relational spark, actively work to build a professional relationship. Maybe an unlikely professor could be your Yoda tucked away in Dagobah.

If you find the concept of attending office hours intimidating, you’re not alone. “Nothing really prepares you for going up and talking to a professor that you’re not sure is going to shut you down or embrace you,” Stevens said. If you can’t shake the nerves, turn to an advisor. Academic advisors can refer you to relatable and welcoming professors, and many universities even have mentorship programs to help you through the process, too.

Whether you’re 20 or 60, you should constantly be looking for role models. You won’t always need mentors to help you find jobs, but you’ll always need some sort of inspiration. “What you look for in a role model shifts as your life evolves,” Stevens said. Now is the time to start gaining these relationship-building skills, so you can always find the most meaning in your life.

Jackie is a junior studying journalism and international studies at UW-Madison. She loves all things outdoors, naps, donuts and cheeseburgers.

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