A Leader Can Follow

By Emilio Joubert, Social Media Intern

Having just recently begun my junior year at Georgetown University, I have been reflecting on the main reasons I’ve been able to succeed during my time in college. While I have good study habits, manage to maintain a solid sleep schedule and don’t get overly involved, the key to my success is my ability to be an effective mentee.

College is a big step forward for all of us. There’s dozens of on campus groups wanting to add you to their listservs, fellowships that seem enticing, and you may need a job on campus to help support yourself. The list of options in front of a new student can be absolutely daunting. I recall being overwhelmed when I first heard about the dizzying number of opportunities available. However, since I came to Georgetown with a web of successful mentors (both adults and upperclassmen I had met before arriving to campus), I turned to them for advice before making big decisions.

Through repeatedly working with my mentors, I have developed three habits that which allow me to get the most out of my mentorship experience.  

1. Do Not Be Afraid To Ask for More.

This advice might seem strange at first glance. During the early stages of being a mentee, it is essential that your desire to succeed is visible to your mentor. When you first connect with your potential mentor offer your email address and also ask to go out for lunch or get together for coffee, if you are in the same city. It is deeply important that you demonstrate interest in not just the opportunities the person you’re speaking to offers, but also that you demonstrate an interest in who they are.

When you know each other better, ‘asking for more’ means not just asking for assistance, it means paying close attention to what your mentor says, and demonstrating that you learn from them, and also take their advice. For instance, when I first asked a mentor about how I could effectively perform community service on campus, he informed me of the Georgetown ASK program, a program which works with previously incarcerated youth. As soon as he told me about it, I asked him if he did the program, and what he thought about the program’s mission. After a serious discussion, I ended it pursuing it, and later became a program leader, working alongside with my mentor. I asked for more, and then I ended up giving more as a result of his advice.

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2. Understand that you, the Mentee Must Also do Some Work.

Being a mentee does not mean that the person guiding you is responsible for all of the work in the relationship. There should be moments when you offer your own expertise and are willing to offer said expertise freely. When one of my mentors informed me that he was writing a book, I immediately volunteered to help. The topic didn’t matter, what mattered was that I was in a situation where I could offer my own skills. I offered my input and as a Writing Center Tutor at my school, offered to assist him in any way possible to make the book a success. This improved our relationship immensely, and it meant a lot to me when I was eventually featured in his book.

Mentors like to dedicate a lot of time to and resources for their mentee’s benefit, and going the extra mile for them can be quite valuable to both parties. Demonstrating that you are willing to work on equal ground is very telling, as it is a quality that shows your willingness to work together in other projects in the future.

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 3. Remember, your Mentor is a Person.

I’ve made it a habit to text my mentors every so often, see how they are doing, and try to meet up. Taking the time to talk to them and getting to know them better is not only emotionally fulfilling, but it also lets me know that I have someone who will stick with me when times get rough. I now consider many of these people more than just mentors; I feel that some of them are family. They have helped me through very difficult times in both college and life. The depth of our relationship is the product of years of working together, and years of ensuring that I am the most effective mentee I can possibly be for those who are taking the time to guide me. The mentor/mentee relationship is not a zero-sum game, you should always strive to understand the person you’re working with better, so that you too are able become a better human being.

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As time goes on, you’ll find that your mentors slowly become your friends, and perhaps, you may even teach them a thing or two. But until that happens, remember to keep these three key points in mind, I’m absolutely positive they’ll take you somewhere great. Maybe you’ll even become a mentor to those younger than you, just as I have.