On mentors and being one yourself  

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Being a part of a team is all about being willing to listen and learn. With internships being a large part of the college experience, it’s important to learn to effectively be a part of a team and communicate to succeed professionally and personally. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Last month, as summer came to a close and the fall semester grew closer and closer, I found myself in a persistent weird mood. This is not a new phenomenon of course, as the transitory periods of life are seemingly meant to make you feel weird. But, as a sentimental person, I always find myself looking back at things that are now past as I step through new doorways. I instinctively watch over my shoulder until the door is securely shut. It’s an interesting dichotomy of wanting closure, making sure each end is tied up into a neat bow, but still not wanting to let go entirely. 

For example, leaving my internship was a particularly bittersweet feeling. I had spent the last 10 weeks working intensively with one supervisor on a small team – we joked we could finally call ourselves a department when I joined, as it was just my supervisor before – and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to move on. Luckily, my supervisor told me to keep in touch, and for once, I took comfort in this. I’ll be the first to admit that previously, upon hearing “keep in touch,” I would always say I would do so, never intending to reach out again. It’s not that I didn’t like these people, I just never took the time to send the follow-up texts, or ask how people were doing when not actively involved with them anymore. I only saw it as another task to add to my list, and would let the stress of sending the perfect text overwhelm me. I’m beginning to think this was the wrong attitude though.  

Throughout the course of my life I have received immense help from mentors and role models, such as my internship supervisor this summer. The fact that this is the case is a blessing, and thus something I try to remind myself of often. I wouldn’t be here, in college, without the role models I’ve worked with, let alone writing for this newspaper. I’m starting to realize that these connections I’ve built are vital, or at the very least, important enough to maintain.  

There is always room to improve in the things you do. Especially when it comes to the professional world, looking for others who have different strengths than you and listening to their advice is one of the best ways to earn experience. Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash.

Working with my internship supervisor this summer gave me the best experience I could ask for as an emerging adult. It was essentially a mini-launch into the world, with someone watching to make sure I did alright on my own. I think of it like jumping into the deep end of a pool – yes, I know how to swim and would probably have been okay, but having a lifeguard there watching was a comforting feeling.  

This goes back to the idea of “just needing someone to take a chance on you.” You can have all the potential in the world, and every skill in the book perfectly curated to back-up that potential, but the journey is still going to be a million times easier if you have a hand to guide you along the way. With that being said, you should keep in touch with these role models when given the chance. Yes, drafting the “How are you?” text can be a little scary, but there is no harm in reaching out. At the very least, send a thank you message, so they know their work helping you did not go unnoticed. And in the future, update them on what you’re up to! Especially here, I promise I practice what I preach nowadays – I’ll be sending this column to my supervisor the second it’s on the website! 

Furthermore, in reflecting on the help I have received from mentors in the past, I do also try to be that person for others when the opportunity arises, and you should too. For example, don’t just hold a leadership position, be a true leader. Be approachable, showing actively that you want to help those under you do well, and follow through on your promises. As simple as it sounds, help others when you can. If you have expertise, share it! Hopefully, role models will spread like wildfire.  

There is no shame in asking for or receiving help. And further, there is no shame in acknowledging the help you have received from others throughout your life. So ask for help! Benefit from it! Meet with mentors and take notes in those meetings. Apply their advice to your life, then go back to them and let them know what worked. Talk about why other things didn’t work and how to improve them. Build relationships and foster connections so you always have someone to turn to, and do the same for others when you can.  

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