How Should You Choose A Mentor?

Last time we talked about whether or not you need to have a mentor(s). You can read that post here, but basically my answer was you don’t have to, but it sure helps!

Now we move on to how to choose a mentor. When I say the phrase “choose a mentor,” it has the ring of long-term commitment to it, and that’s not necessarily the case. Mentorship has evolved over the years, as I touched on in the last post. Whereas 20 years ago you might have chosen or been paired with one mentor that you remained connected to for years and years, now you have many more options. You can also choose to pair up with a mentor for a specific purpose or brief time and/or have several mentors at one time advising you in various areas.

The first step (and this is key, so don’t skip it) is to identify what your goal is. Do you want connections in a particular city or practice area? That will take you down one path. On the other hand, you might just need help navigating law school, which would take you a different direction.

After determining your goal, give significant thought to your commitment level. How much of your time, energy and effort are you willing to commit to a mentorship relationship? There is no wrong answer here, but you should be prepared to give more than your mentor does. Why? 1) Because they are busier than you and doing this out of the kindness of their heart, and/or to pay it forward because someone once mentored them, and 2) a good mentor will give you homework to do, and you will need to do it in order to maintain a healthy mentor/mentee relationship (who wants to mentor someone who won’t take action on the advice they are giving?!).

Once you know your goal and what you’re willing to put in, you can begin the search for the right mentoring relationship. But how do you start your search? One option is to consider participating in the mentoring programs we offer here at the law school (teaser: I’ll be highlighting and explaining those in the next post). You could also sit down with a faculty member and ask them if they could recommend someone. Finally, how about researching the attorneys/alumni who both would satisfy your goals AND you have something in common with? This is helpful because adding a personal connection (e.g. you both are interested in hunger relief programs) will increase the likelihood they will agree to mentor you, as well as make the mentorship more productive and enjoyable for both of you.

We’ll finish up this series on mentorship next time, but for now why don’t you take a few minutes and drill down on your goals for a mentorship, as well as the time you’re willing to commit. This will set you up well for taking advantage of the opportunities we’re going to discuss. Have a great week!

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