If you’re a current law student by now you should have settled in nicely at your summer gig. It can be easy to lose focus in the day to day of assignments and deadlines of what your big goal for the summer should be–securing a job (or a job lead for next summer/semester). While that is the main goal, there is something else to work towards, especially if you’re breaking into the field, and that is finding a mentor that may help guide you in your budding career. How do you find a mentor?! That is the million dollar question.
If you are me, a kind law professor takes pity on you and helps push and prod you towards the right direction. If you’re savvier and more proactive, you go out to events, make connections, participate in programs, and create genuine relationships. Be savvy and proactive. Use your summer to find a mentor to help guide your next steps.
And let’s clear up what a mentor is first. A mentor is someone who provides career advice, but isn’t necessarily part of your firm. They are sounding boards and can provide you leads, suggestions, or act as a reference (early on), but won’t be as active as a sponsor (totally different post) in your career. Mentors are vital because they are like a flashlight that allow you to see pitfalls and opportunities you may otherwise not see.
Establishing a mentorship is important, but it’s very rare that it happens through formal channels–that’s not always the case as you can find indispensable mentors in formal programs set up by school and/or work, but I have found that for most people it happens organically. And that’s a blessing and curse!
A blessing because mentors often seek you out when they see your potential and want to help you, which creates a strong relationship. A curse because hello–mentors are usually people in positions of power (even just senior level) and this “organic” formation of mentorship may create a purposeful or accidental furtherance of power for the status quo.
Ok but like that is something you really can’t help and instead you should focus on being the shining diamond in the rough so that potential mentors want to help you out because they see you’re capable of so much growth.
How do you make that happen?
One. You do the work. There’s no shortcut to showing how reliable, intelligent, and useful you are without actually doing the work. Sometimes doubly so. So make sure you’re making good impressions, meeting the standards, and doing more than just your average.
Two. Make it a two way street. Mentorships seem benevolent in nature. Some bigshot takes a liking to you and that’s that. But the truth is that someone wants to be a mentor because there’s a benefit to it. And perhaps that benefit is just feeling good that they’re helping someone along their career, but that good feeling will turn sour if you don’t take their advice, fail at succeeding, and just seem like a waste of their time. Instead be a good mentee, by participating in the partnership. Be involved and proactive–essentially show that you’re willing to work and learn.
Three. Be grateful. I don’t mean that you have to grovel. Mentors should be in this so that a younger colleague inflates their ego. But be appreciative of their time, information, and willingness to share their input with you. Make sure you pick up the coffee every now and then, and touch base without strings attached so that your communication isn’t always an “ask” of them.
Will you make a mentor this summer? It depends on your behavior (and desire) for guidance. Seek out those that see your potential and then make them see why you’re worth their time.