The Case for Mentors: A Student’s Best Strategy This Fall

August 11, 2020

The Network Gap

In the last few months, we’ve started to better understand the value of virtual work, especially as students wrap up their virtual internships and prepare for a fall semester that’s most likely online as well. For students expecting to make most of their connections through their in-person internships, classes, and/or events in the fall, this is quite a disappointment, considering the importance of these connections in securing their future. 

Nearly 80% of jobs aren’t even posted publicly and moreover, 85% of jobs are filled through networking. The cancellation of networking opportunities is devastating for many students and worsens the network gap. For students from low socio-economic backgrounds, their post-secondary education is an opportunity to level the playing field and find their own connections compared to students who come from families with a pre-existing network. As a result, mentorship is more crucial than ever, not only for career purposes but for support during these times. For students in any field, here are a few reasons to make the search for mentors a priority and some tips for how to approach the process.       

More Beneficial than Ever

Well before COVID, young people were always told to prepare for a drastically different job market than the generation before us which is only becoming more different now. The best way to understand the range of jobs available now or potentially in the future is to connect with those already well-versed in your field of interest. Information from those directly involved in the industry is as valuable as lectures when preparing for future careers because it can help you prioritize your options. 

Online fatigue is very real; most people by now are tired of online events and zoom calls. But one-on-one calls remain valuable, especially for providing support and motivation for students experiencing burnout from lectures and extracurriculars. The case for virtual mentors is clear, as connections are online, students have access to industry members from all over the world without having to account for commute or locality. There’s never been a better time to explore your interests and expand your professional network. 

How Do I Find a Mentor?

  • Think about why - Before deciding where to begin looking for mentors, take the time to think about why. Particularly, think about whether you’re seeking advice, job leads, or are simply looking to have a conversation. Although, be sure to stay open about where the connection can lead because you may find value from unexpected perspectives. Think of some general questions you might have and then specific ones for individual people. Approach the process and people with genuine curiosity rather than a resource to exploit. 
  • Talk to your employers - If you are completing or have completed an internship, your employers are the best place to start. Even if they aren’t within your target industry, they know you well and are experienced to help you navigate the future and can connect you to other professionals in their network. Reach out to them and schedule a chat before your internship ends. 
  • Take advantage of Linkedin - Linkedin isn’t only good for business students, it covers a range of fields so anyone can make the most of it. Use their filters to discover the people you want, especially for finding post-secondary alumni within your target industry who are most likely to respond. As a student, you’re in the best position to approach strangers with questions because you’re looking to learn.
  • Check out new apps and organizations - There’s been an influx of new apps and programs to connect students with mentors from a broad range of industries and backgrounds. For example, Mentor Space is a new app that is specifically for African-Americans and Latinx students to find mentors of a similar background who can understand their experiences. Mentorly is another resource for students looking to discover mentors in creative industries. 

The emerging importance of mentors cannot be stressed enough. The benefits are vast and the accessibility is far better than before. You may not make connections when looking for them but keep an open mind to find opportunities anywhere. 

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About the Author

Yogmaya Singh is a fourth-year Entrepreneurship student at the University of British Columbia, and a Marketing Intern at Riipen. Driven by her need to explore and grow, she's always found herself working within roles that challenge her. She's interested in all things music, enjoys trying new foods and dabbling with art.