Two Teens And Their Mama: Helping Teens Find A Mentor

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Helping Teens Find A Mentor


A few months ago I wrote about things your teen can do this summer, which included finding someone to "job shadow".  One of the comments on that post got me thinking about mentors, and how we often don't take advantage of that relationship in this modern, busy world.  Finding an adult with the experience or knowledge your teen seeks can be invaluable in their path to a career.  

My younger son T hopes to be a veterinarian, and he was very fortunate this summer to work at my sister's clinic with their new vet.  Dr. A allowed him to come in twice a week and follow him as he saw patients and conducted surgeries.

On the first day of work, T came home full of interesting stories and new experiences. Over lunch, Dr. A told him why he had agreed to the mentorship.  When he was T's age, he had a doctor do the same for him, and he wanted to show his appreciation by passing on the favor.  He explained to T that everyone who wants to go to vet school has excellent grades and lots of activities on their resume. T needs to do something to stand out.  By working with Dr. A (and hopefully doing a good job), he will be able to get letters of recommendation from him for scholarships and applications.  

Plus, Dr. A knows the ins and outs of vet school, and has already started giving T great advice on what classes to take now, and what undergraduate degree would be most helpful once he gets to college.  This summer experience has already given T a leg up in his future career.  He was very lucky that his aunt was able to connect him with Dr. A.

T hasn't met an animal he didn't like!

How can your teen find a mentor?  It may seem difficult, but influential people in any given field are often happy to advise the next generation, love to impart their knowledge, and would enjoy helping if asked.  

The best place to start is by talking to family and friends.  Often times they have useful contacts you didn't know they had!  Plus, these are the people that can vouch for your teen and get them an introduction.  

Having your child ask their school career counselor can also be helpful.  Even if they don't have a direct contact in their industry, they might be able to point them in the right direction. Look for networking opportunities such as business association or chamber of commerce meetings.  

As I've written about before, my older son C found his mentor a few years ago by calling the local Ferrari dealership and speaking with the person whose job he someday hopes to have. It's okay for your teen to make direct contact with someone in their chosen field by phone or email, and explain what they are looking for.

And C has never met a Ferrari that he didn't like!

Once they've found someone suitable, have them set up a meeting with the potential mentor.  Your teen should have a clear idea of what they're hoping the mentor can do for them - allow them to job shadow, or give advice on a good education path.  Don't expect the mentor to figure out what they need - have an outline and then listen to their opinion.

Have your teen ask the mentor about the various pathways to success in their chosen field, and what activities or training would make them the most desirable candidate for the job. Ask the mentor what they wish they had known when they first started out, or what they would have done differently.  

Once they've had the initial meeting, have your child stay in touch.  C talks to his mentor about once a month either on the phone or through email, letting him know how things are going and tweaking his path.  Try not to overwhelm the mentor though - they are busy people.  Remind your teen to always remain professional.  Finally, don't forget to thank the mentor every once in a while - they will appreciate it!  Building a mentor/mentee relationship has to be based on a foundation of mutual trust, and it may take a few tries to find the right person.

Hopefully C and T are on the path to success in their chosen field, with help from their mentors.  Now if I can just figure out how we're paying for that path...

18 comments:

  1. Lana, I think this is your best post yet! Wonderful advice, and great tips on how to put it into practice. All the best of luck to both your boys - it sounds like they have both chosen fields in which they will be very happy and successful! Kudos to their mentors also!

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    1. Thank you Susan - what a nice compliment! I'm pretty happy that my boys seem to know what their passion is - only time will tell for sure!

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  2. Lana- you will be in charge of raising my kids during their teen years.

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    1. Deena - that's the nicest thing I've ever heard :). However, having met you and your wonderful kids, you are going to do an awesome job!

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  3. This is such a great idea, and I'll be implementing it in the coming years. Thanks for planting the seed!

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    1. So glad you found it helpful. I think mentors were more common years ago - we've gotten so busy they have kind of lost favor - but I think it's a valuable resource!

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  4. This is great advice! I have a long way to go given that my 'baby' is just seven. However, I agree with the invaluable contribution of mentors. Even as an adult, I had mentors. When I taught in uni, having mentors helped so much in teaching me the proper work ethic, giving me options for career growth and also provided networks for me for advancement. And now as a blogger/ writer, I still look up to some ppl and call them my mentors. They offer me advice and guide me with what they know about the blogging world and publishing. It's really just helpful seeing more clearly what the path ahead looks like / or may look like. And I think it's also a good exercise in having intellectual humility. To me, that is very important.

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    1. You're right - mentors can be important throughout our lives. We also should remember that we can be mentors to others!

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  5. This is a great idea! Parents don't always know the best way to pursue certain goals, so I'm sure it's very helpful to have other trusted adults guiding them when making decisions, too.

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    1. I think it always helps to get other opinions when you're raising kids!

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  6. Nothing more important than giving teens role models during these years.

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  7. Great advice. I hope Tommy can find a mentor!

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    1. He will - especially with such a great mom to help him!

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  8. seriously a great idea! Annabelle might be a bit young ;) but I will definitely try and remember this when she's older

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    1. Yeah, Annabelle is probably a little young yet for a mentor. But it will be here before you know it!

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  9. This a terrific post Lana! Such really good ideas! I wish your blog had been around when my kids were teenagers! That's okay I'm warming up for those grand babies! I um well I hope you won't be mad at me after this coming weekend its a challenge for Alz and I have to do it and nominate someone or two and I want to nominate you since its something close to you. It's called #plungeforalzheimers and basically you have to throw yourself into a pool, ocean, lake whatever to raise awareness for Alzheimer's. Patty Chan Anker nominated me, her friend Audrey de Wys thought of the idea. I have a team The Diary of an Alzheimer's Caregiver and we are walking in the Walk to End Alzheimer's on October 18th so this is actually perfect timing. I'm putting an ad on my site starting Monday to link to the Alzheimer's site to take donations. I'm doing mine over the weekend if you go to mine or Patty's fb page you can see her's. I'll post mine then you get a week. If you don't want to do it please let me know. Thanks and please don't hate me!

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    1. What a nice compliment Rena - thank you! I'm so excited for your new grand babies. I'm not mad at all - I'm very honored that you would think of me. Now to find a body of water that won't freeze me to death :)!

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