Not quite a partnership, not strictly a friendship, the mentoring relationship—in any of its various forms—feeds the drive to succeed.
Mentors have existed since the beginning of time. The first person to show another how to throw a rock or craft a spear to catch dinner certainly qualifies for the title. And so history repeats itself daily as humans share knowledge and advice, one on one, with those who seek the same.
Mentors today still aid others in securing dinner—now it’s called “finding a job”—but they do so much more. In addition to opening doors, making introductions and going to bat, they help mentees develop skills, cultivate contacts and build networks, understand their own strengths and weaknesses and even map out a path to leadership.
Famous examples abound. The late poet Maya Angelou early on took Oprah Winfrey under her wing. She guided the future celebrity and media maven in many important decisions over the course of more than three decades. The late Steve Jobs counseled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, one innovative entrepreneur explaining to another what worked for him when the going got tough. Obi-Wan Kenobi expertly coached Anakin Skywalker and, later, more fruitfully, Luke.
At FIU, as at other universities, the aspirations of young people run thick. You can feel it in the air: untapped potential ready to explode in the interest of doing something great. Harnessing that energy becomes the job of mentors: faculty, advisors, alumni, community members and even peers, all ready to steer, push and champion.
“Student learning in and out of the classroom is essential for 21st century competitiveness,” President Mark B. Rosenberg says. “Mentors provide know-how and how-to skills that complement formal learning and give an additional edge to our students.”
Alumni, too, can take advantage of such concentrated support. Plenty see the value in consulting with professionals such as certified counselor Maria Tomaino. She heads career development activities for FIU’s Office of Alumni Relations—which offers webinars, networking experiences and more for graduates, at no charge—and has met individually with hundreds of alumni grappling with the question, “What’s next?” As they look to change jobs or re-enter the workforce, she holds their hands and walks them through the paces: self-assessments, resume updates, cover letter reviews, LinkedIn profile tweaks. (Appointments can be scheduled at fiualumni.com/career.)
It’s never too late to find a life sherpa, says Casandra Henriquez ’04, MPH ’06. A certified life coach, she runs a business counseling clients in the arenas of wellness, business and, most recently, love relationships. Henriquez has herself sought out individuals to guide her both personally and professionally. She suggests identifying a potential mentor based on his or her success in an area in which one wishes to improve. “Find somebody who’s doing well and choose to spend time with them,” she says. “Greatness rubs off just by being in good company.”
And it’s not just mentees who benefit from the huddle. Those who do the mentoring likewise get something in return. “It’s really a rewarding feeling to know that you made an impact on somebody and that their life is better because of you,” Henriquez says. And almost anybody can help another. “You don’t need any big qualifications,” she says of serving as a mentor, “other than to be yourself and to share your story.” ♦
*Sources: Institute for Higher Education and Gallup-Purdue Index Report 2015
Interested in mentoring a student? Go to fiualumni.com/volunteer