Getting to class on time, writing reports, passing mid-terms and finals, landing internships, working part-time jobs, and making it to important social events – if you are a college student studying a tech-related subject, you’ve already got a lot on your plate.
But there is one other aspect of the college experience that you may not have considered: do you have a mentor?
A mentorship is not just one more thing to add to your busy schedule. It is an important tool that can help you expand your industry-related knowledge and get a leg up in your niche.
Below, we will discuss why mentoring is important for technology majors, how to find a good mentor, and best practices for professionals who are mentoring and empowering students today.
Why Mentoring Is Important for Students
Mentoring is often linked with an internship, lab work, or on-the-job training. This provides students with work experience examples to include on their resumes, even though they may not have officially entered the workforce via their first job in the field.
Mentoring also helps students to build their professional networks. This is especially important in tech-related fields, where funding and access to the right equipment have often depended on chance meetings. For example, internships and good impressions over project presentations fueled Celine Halioua’s biotech career. Today, she is now the founder and CEO of the biotech startup Loyal.
Mentoring also provides an avenue through which students can gain knowledge and understanding not easily attained on their own. Mentors have experience both in life and in the workplace that they can share with their mentees. This can provide insight and influence decisions in ways that may have taken the mentees years to discover on their own.
Where to Find a Mentor
Resources abound to help students connect with tech mentors – even before students have reached the college level. These include:
- Mentors in Tech (MinT): “a program that helps overlooked and underserved tech students at smaller, less well-known, accessible, and affordable colleges navigate and launch their careers through structured yearlong mentorship with industry mentors, integrated hands-on industry and Open Source capstone projects, [and] tailored recruiting that connects employers to students.”
- Mentoring Youth Through Technology (MYTT): a “nonprofit designed to inspire, educate and mentor youth through technology.” They provide “STEM education, job readiness training, college pathways, [and] entrepreneurship training.”
- The Uncommon Individual Foundation: (UIF) provides classroom workshops and creates “engaging content that gives students the opportunity to learn skills they can apply in college or in future tech-based careers.”
Your college or university may also offer mentoring programs. Your guidance counselor or professor may be able to identify internship opportunities in your field as well.
You may also find a mentor at a part-time job while in college. Look for job openings that are related to your field. Work hard, and get to know your coworkers and managers. There’s a lot you can learn from the experience. And, if they appreciate the quality of your work, they may offer opportunities that can springboard your career.
Finally, you may be able to locate a mentor simply by reaching out to someone that inspires you. Halioua, mentioned earlier, emailed a leading researcher in her field. This led to a phone interview, an internship, and a job offer.
How to Be a Tech Mentor
It really isn’t difficult to be a good tech mentor, whether or not you are in the tech industry. After all, emerging technologies are important in every field.
According to Ohio University’s engineering department, effective tech mentors do the following:
- Stay up-to-date on the latest technology related to your field.
- Communicate effectively by laying ground rules and expectations for communication, outlining preferred contact methods, explaining technical jargon, and listening actively.
- Treat mentees with respect and give them responsibilities.
- Allow mentees to make their own decisions rather than giving them answers, thus building their problem-solving skills.
Tech mentors can introduce students to novel technologies, show them how to use them, and allow them to gain experience in their use. They can challenge them to overcome long-standing and emerging challenges in the field. They can also introduce them to others who may serve as valuable mentors or industry connections.
- Mentoring technology students while in college can boost their future achievements by providing them with valuable insights and skills and growing their professional networks.
- These mentors can be found via a number of organizations, university programs, internships, or simply by reaching out to industry professionals.
- Good mentors stay up-to-date with relevant technology, communicate effectively, challenge students to excel and make their own decisions, respect their mentees, and observe proper boundaries.
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