Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education


Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education


Article excerpt


I have identified someone who, if I could get him/her to be my mentor, would be an impressive addition to my career. How do I go about cultivating such a relationship?

Presumably there is some way in which the person's research or work is related to your own interests. You might therefore need advice about a project you are working on that overlaps with the mentor's area of expertise.

You might also ask if you could have an information interview to talk about career patterns and learn more about the path that led your mentor to where he or she is today. It would also give you an opportunity to begin to reveal your own aspirations.

Be sure to write a thank-you note immediately after your first interview. Mentoring takes time and you want to be sure to acknowledge your appreciation. Don't be embarrassed about keeping after them. In fact, it is an essential part of cultivating a relationship. Consider following up the initial interview with seeking advice about something you have written or are working on.

Even if you are not seeking feedback, you might send a complimentary copy of an article or book you have completed or the program from a project you oversaw. Deepen the relationship by keeping your mentor aware of what you have accomplished and are capable of doing.

If the situation is appropriate, seek ways to be in a more regular working relation with your mentor. Take his or her course, see if you can work on a project your mentor is doing, or propose a panel for a professional meeting that includes your mentor.

A good mentor is much like friendship. The relationship grows in proportion to the investment and exchange sustained over time. A good mentor needs to know who you are and what you are capable of to become your champion, advise you well, and help you get where you want to be.


Executive Director American College Personnel Association

Mentors are defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as "a wise and trusted counselor or teacher." The nouns, counselor and teacher, can be adjudged from a person's reputation but if possible, you should try to find other persons of your age and gender, who have interacted closely with your chosen mentor to affirm that judgment.

As for the adjectives used in this definition, "wise" is a given. The second adjective, trust, is not as readily evident in someone who is "impressive." Trust between two persons is built up from exposure and an openness to listen and understand the other. If available and important to you, having the same ethnic background or broad interests might help get you past the introductory threshold. …

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