VALUE OF MENTORS
Young adults usually find a mentor in life by chance. A favorite teacher, a senior manager at work, or, possibly, a respected relative. For the lucky ones, the right mentor will appear just at the right time to help shape our career or give a nudge in a new and different direction. For me, it was my Psychology Professor at Northwestern, Dr. Camille Wortman.
Coming from a small private High School in New York City, I was shocked by the size of the lecture classes at N.U. in my freshman year. I felt, that morning in Psych 101, like a nameless, insignificant nobody in a group of about 1,500 students. So, at the end of the first 50 minutes of lecture, knowing no better, I approached the stage, looked up at my professor and, pointing to myself, said, “Hi. I’m Mark Feldstein.” and walked out.
Later that afternoon, I walked into Dr. Wortman’s office. The professor stopped in her tracks and said, “You’re Mark Feldstein! Do you want to work for me?” I worked for her for my 4 years of undergraduate school, cleaned her house, sold her car and with whom I flew a kite off Lake Michigan (designed by DaVinci which they no longer make, but was awesome).
It doesn’t matter that I only minored in Psychology. My mentor may not have convinced me to pursue psych. My grades weren’t good enough, anyway, to be truthful. Instead, Dr. Wortman taught me other valuable lessons that I carry with me to this day; a strong work ethic, a morale compass and a sense of empathy among many others. It is unpredictable how a mentor can impact your life, but it you keep your mind open to possibilities, I would venture to say that you will benefit and benefit greatly.
When I walked up to that stage, I wasn’t intending to find a mentor. However, I did open a door by being proactive. I further pursued the opportunity by showing up at Dr. Wortman’s office. No matter how I may want to color it, though, I found my mentor by chance.
FIND A MENTOR
Don’t make that mistake. Don’t leave it to chance because chance is a gamble. Find a mentor purposely and methodically. Find one as soon as possible, preferably while still in High School. If you have an idea of your career path, find a professional in that arena. Tell them of your interest and for any suggestions regarding which classes are most helpful beside the required ones. You might be surprised by how an academic curriculum may differ from the one suggested by a professional who is actually working in the field. Of course, you will still have to take the prescribed courses, regardless, but you may find the suggested classes will give you an advantage in not only your resume, but also your perspective. Ask any architect and you will quickly understand what I mean.
Also, you never know how a vested mentor can help you when you need it; an internship, a letter of recommendation or, even, a job one day. Don’t think that this relationship is all one way, with you receiving and the mentor giving. It doesn’t work that way.
People love to share their knowledge, especially with an interested and, possibly, talented young person. Idolatry doesn’t hurt their egos, either. And, if they do grant you an internship, for example, they will work you to the bone. Have no fear; it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. So, take advantage of it.
Find a mentor. Oh, and by the way, you can have more than one.