I try to share my experiences as I go through my process of researching, advancing academically, developing a career and skills because I find it extremely valuable when others share their experience with me.
About a month ago, I was privileged enough to have been sponsored to attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL).
I was very concerned that I may not get much out of it, but it turned out to be an unbelievable opportunity. I grew so much in just a few days, and felt like I had been injected with new life and energy!
It was the end of the semester, I had a really tough class that made me doubt my entire existence, not only did I not finish my thesis, but it changed direction causing me to go back and have to redo quite a bit of work. Also, I was working a job that I didn’t like. I felt because I had to work my way through school that I was trapped in a situation where I was underemployed, not remotely stimulated, and bored to literal tears. Even my friendships and relationships felt like a complete and total drag! I was mopey, uninspired, and blah! for weeks.
Maybe it was the Maryland air or the 4 hour buss ride, but within a few hours of being at the conference, I was beginning to feel my mojo return. I was excited to be in a supportive environment where I felt valued and validated. My research was met with genuine interest, I wasn’t self conscious. I was hopeful. It’s a powerful feeling to stand in a room full of strangers and feel 100% supported and embraced. I could write about this part forever, but one of the best pieces of advice I received was to “get a mentor”.
I have heard this lots of times before. I’ve said it. I’ve BEEN A MENTOR! But I think because I arrived there wanting and needing answers and direction, I was listening differently.
Throughout college, I have had great teachers, decent advisors, surrounded myself with motivated and driven people, and perhaps I thought this was enough. But a mentor is different because they are an outside party invested in your success. They see the larger picture, and understand what it takes to get where you want to be. Professors They may have a larger network and set of resources to help steer you. Professors and bosses can be mentors but this is not always the case. Sometimes we just want to get through the semester or pay the light bill.
You DON’T have to navigate alone! But even taking the step to ask for mentorship takes bravery that maybe I couldn’t seem to muster before I attend NCCWSL.
I was worried about letting another person invest in my success because I didn’t want to let them down. That’s a legit concern, right? We have our parents, teachers, friends, foes, fans, pets, kids, etc. watching our progress. The deeper we get, the more is at stake.
However, when I returned home from NCCWSL, full of bravery, moxie, and still feeling like I had just left the ultimate cheer team, I went to work on finding a mentor, particularly in anthropology.
This was an INCREDIBLY important move as I have been continuing and working on my research through the summer, but my advisor is not available, and I felt like I had a lot of gaps that needed be filled.
I went to the American Association of Anthropology and eventually got to the NAPA web page. I learned they have a mentor program. You fill out the form and then you are matched to a professional that would best suit your needs.
My mentor and I have been emailing back and forth, he’s been helping me with my thesis AND providing pragmatic advice about furthering my career as an anthropologist. Some of the task items he gives me are a bit nerve wrecking, but I try to remember that he’s doing what a good mentor does. He’s pushing me out of my comfort zone and taking my hardwork seriously. It’s scary to be taken seriously.
A mentor doesn’t want me to fail. They want me to make valiant and honest efforts. If I do fail, a mentor is there to help me deal with the lessons I learned so that I don’t end up spending a week in bed, surviving on take out and Netflix.
Oh! And it’s fine to have mentors in different areas! I have friends with a mentor for school and another one for some other area that they seek to change and develop. Sometimes, having a mentor that helps with navigating society can be really advantageous.
So, strap on some bravery, don’t be afraid to ask for help and for someone to take your dreams and goals seriously. Get a mentor. Be a mentor. Level up!