This summer is a great time to find a professional mentor. The benefits for a law student are many. A mentor can help your professional growth, assist you with setting short-term and long-term career goals, provide you advice and guidance, help you develop professional skills, expand your network and provide encouragement.
Some mentoring relationships may be facilitated through the law firm’s summer associate program or through the local bar association. Others develop naturally as you begin gaining practical experience and meet attorneys whose career paths and success you admire. There is a mentoring tab in Symplicity where attorneys have signed up specifically to assist current law students at MU Law. In LinkedIn, you can join the Mizzou Law Professional Network group and meet alumni who are practicing. There are many options out there, but how do you identify the “right” mentor?
First you need to be clear about what you are looking for in a mentor. Are you looking for a role model? Someone that has succeeded in an area of law and a career path that interests you. Someone you respect? Respect is the foundation for any good mentor/mentee relationship. Most likely you are looking for a person who possesses the qualities and skill set you admire and hope to emulate. Someone you can trust? You will be relying on their advice and judgment as well as depending on their confidentiality. Knowing what you are looking for will assist you in finding the right individual.
Once you have identified someone to be your mentor, first consider asking them for coffee and getting to know them a little better. Perhaps ask for specific advice about a particular topic or subject. Any strong mentoring relationship requires a personal connection, so start to develop that first. Don’t worry if your mentor is not just like you, that can actually be helpful. But you do want to enjoy each other’s company and spend pleasant time together. After you have selected your potential mentor, take the next step and ask them if it would be alright if you could meet from time to time to talk. This could be in person, by phone or email, whichever is best for the busy professional.
A strong mentoring relationship is very valuable, so make sure you show your appreciation. Your mentor is taking time from their busy schedule for the pleasure of seeing your career unfold. Be sure your mentor knows you appreciate his/her time and advice. If you can assist your mentor with anything, take the opportunity and jump in to help. Stay in touch, but keep a flexible mindset realizing that your mentor will sometimes be unavailable. Mentoring, as with successful networking, is a two-way street and requires your effort and outreach as well.
Having a professional mentor is an important support system to have as a new attorney. Be open to finding a mentor and investing in the relationship. There is no rule that says you can only have one mentor, you may find several along your career path!