There are a lot of definitions of what a mentor actually is.
My favourite is ‘someone who helps another person to become what they aspire to be’. It fits in with SOAS Careers mission: we don’t mind what you do, so long as you have the tools in place to make an informed decision. And it’s certainly an upgrade on the Ancient Greek definition – ‘a wise counsellor and helper of the youth’.
There are multiple reasons why mentoring is such a good idea for students. I’d like to share three particularly applicable ones today:
Mentoring helps individuals with transitions
Many of you reading this will be approaching the end of your time at SOAS. The transition between leaving university and entering the world of work can be a tricky one. I know I struggled…as a 2008 grad, I sympathise with the whole recession thing.
A mentor can help. Perhaps, like me, they graduated during the last recession. They may even have graduated last year (don’t underestimate the value of a mentor a couple of years ‘ahead’ of you). The right mentor is perfectly placed to help guide you through this period of transition, and can act as the perfect partner to bounce ideas off. Sometimes there’s nothing more valuable than talking things through with someone who’s gone through the exact same thing.
Mentoring encourages career development
As the name suggests, SOAS Careers are here to help with all things careers. Career development is, however, a life-long process, and so has to be managed by you – it’s necessarily self-directive. Finding a mentor in a sector or job role you’re interested in can be a huge advantage to your career development. The right mentor will offer two things: a) knowledge and b) a network. A mentor will have in-depth knowledge about the work they do, knowledge they will share with you. They will also be part of a larger network, a network they can introduce you to. Their contacts become your contacts, and as a result, your career benefits.
Mentoring encourages and supports disadvantaged & marginalised groups
Spaces where students and mentors from marginalised and disadvantaged groups can meet are crucial. They offer the chance to discuss shared barriers and to share ways to overcome them. And they’re also the place for the transfer of knowledge and the introduction to networks – both of which may otherwise seem out of reach for some people.
There are so many more benefits to mentoring I’d love to go into here, but this post is getting way too long. Instead, why not sign in to SOAS Connect, our e-Mentoring platform, and start searching for a mentor yourself? We have upwards of 1700 SOAS alumni already signed up and ready to mentor SOAS students. We’ve also created a programme within the platform specifically for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and mentors.
If you’re not sure where or how to start, we’ve created a guide for mentees, found under the Useful Resources tab on the platform. You’re also very welcome to get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a chat about it.
Luke Brockway is the Employer Engagement Manager at SOAS Careers.