Mentor or mentee? Be both.
Some of the most important career insights I gained, occurred when I was mentoring others – something you cannot start with early enough. You can even find a mentor within yourself: be your own mentor, she is always there. If I am stuck in a situation, I often ask myself: “What would I advise a person who is in the same situation?” While this can add some ratio to your assessment, it also forces you to take change perspectives. As both a mentor and mentee it is important to try to take a look on the other side.
However, most of the time is not so easy. Often, we can be lost without knowing it, or doing great without realising it. We need living proof that it can be done. We need someone who tells you that you are doing great, acknowledgement of your intentions, efforts, and actions. And a person who tells you, that you can do it (too). The famous stories can help you to dream big. The small stories, the failures and insecurities can help you to see that no one is perfect, and that even then, there is a way. You will quickly find out that the people you look up to are people too. And then, help each other, not just in words, but by means of action: invitations, introductions, and career opportunities.
I am very grateful for my mentors who are and have been guiding me, who have introduced me to new people and organisations, and for those who have opened doors. Do not be afraid to reach out to person you admire. Become a mentor as soon as you can, and stay a mentee for the rest of your life.
Sonia Boender, PhD