Why do we need a mentor?

A mentor is more than a friend. They are our guide and supporter.

Mien Le, Columnist

When will we need a mentor? When we feel lost, or when we feel confused about our life in the future?

I ask myself that question several times, and most of my friends who are also first-year students at Hamline ask themselves a similar question.

We are growing up. Confusion is something we cannot avoid. Challenge is something we must face. And we must admit that we cannot control all things in our life to navigate them in the right direction. This is the moment we need a mentor.

A mentor isn’t someone too strange to us. At Hamline, the mentor can be our teacher, friends and even older students. But they need to understand us before becoming our mentor.

“Sometimes I feel like we don’t know how to navigate that part of life yet,” first-year Miranda Ekleberry said. “Having a mentor gives us that guidance while allowing us to learn and think for ourselves. They also help us stay on track to try and keep things well planned.”

I don’t want to distinguish who is a good or bad mentor. However, with me, an ideal mentor is someone who accepts who I am. We can be different, but a mentor should put themselves in my shoes. I need a guide. I need a supporter. I need an adviser. I don’t need a person who holds a vision of who I am meant to be. And I believe other students will also have similar thoughts about what their mentor should be like.

“My ideal mentor is someone that can listen to me, all my thoughts and frustrations, and help me to find myself,” first-year Umayma Hersi said. “Someone that can make sense of all the ideas I have running through my mind, help me set things into motion.”

In my First-Year Seminar class, we discuss something called “proper time.” It may be the time for students like us, who are in the process of becoming adults, learning about more responsibility, more skill-improvement, more awareness about our sense of self.

In addition, “proper time” helps us learn what our options are, such as choosing a major, being in a relationship as well as considering the opportunities for doing something out of our comfort zone. But it is so hard to identify “proper time” for ourselves. We have a lot of things to do and a lot of issues to deal with. However, mentors can help us identify our “proper time” and navigate our way to achieve our goals. They guide us towards what might contribute to our growing up journey and help us avoid what doesn’t help our maturation.

Mentors can help in any issues we have. Friendship, relationship, family, financial burden, mental health concerns. I know they are all struggles. However, we can deal with them with the mentor’s help.

Having a mentor is one of the greatest things in our life, but it’s not easy. How can we find a suitable mentor who can understand our personalities and support us? I would say narrowing our own problems. Starting at the biggest issue, we can ask people who are working in that field. They will know what we will need and what we should do. Many people can provide several viewpoints. Therefore, listening to them carefully is a good thing.

Some individuals can be “toxic” mentors, who just want us to do what they say and do not accept our true selves. So, listening to people who advise us is necessary to figure out how much they understand you. Talking with others is also a good way to confirm that they are suitable mentors for the competency we are seeking.

“You should figure out what you need mentoring on first,” first-year Angelina Yang said. “Then you can the resources you have to find a mentor. Social media and Internet are also a broad start.”

However, needing a mentor doesn’t mean we depend on them or just receive their help. A mentor is a guide, but the life is yours. We need them to go along and support us, but we still need to make our own choices. We need a place to belong, but we also need to get our autonomy.

A mentor is human. They need to take care of themselves besides taking care of us. I always believe the relationship between mentor and mentee is mutual support. They help us to navigate, so we can also help them to not be lost. We can listen to them and understand them the same way they listen to and understand us.