Student mentors are one of the most widely used tools in education.
They exist in various forms, such as teachers, educational assistants, coaches, parents, family members, or friends. Students rely on the people they look up to for advice, feedback, and guidance along their educational path.
However, I believe student mentors shouldn’t be limited to the physical beings around them.
Every student will possess different career aspirations and dreams for the future. The student mentors who already exist in their life can assist them with these. But they are not always the right person for the job.
Specifically, a key area where many business education students will require mentors is through marketing, personal finance, or entrepreneurship. Students will need someone who can help guide them through their journey, and as a teacher, I can only provide so much insight. Sometimes we have to extend the branches of support to others.
Why is Proper Student Mentorship So Important?
Glamour looked at some of the top female founders, and there was one consistent between them all.
Find the right mentors.
I believe the word right is the key to the above sentence. Finding mentors can be an easy process. Many students do that at the start of a school year with the teachers in the building they connect with.
However, they may not necessarily be the right mentor.
Jeff Goins identified these four common misconceptions about mentorship:
- Mentoring is about me.
- I need to wait for a mentor to find me.
- Being mentored is more passive than active.
- I need to ask someone to mentor me up-front.
A student/teacher relationship fits into many of these categories. Teachers typically start the relationship building with a student, allow the student to take the passive role in the relationship, and guidance can start once that relationship has solidified.
But the process of seeking out the right student mentors teaches a student so much more.
If students take an active approach in seeking out the right people, opening up conversation, and eventually developing a professional relationship, many new skills are taught on top of what will be ultimately learned.
Students will become more confident. They will not be scared to open dialogue with a complete stranger. And they will learn way more than they ever will from the physical people surrounding them.
The best part is that the tools to seeking out the right mentor are at their fingertips.
The Connection Between Student Mentors and Social Media
Social media is the tool that teenagers utilize the most. With 81% of teens using social media, and 70% using it more than once per day, we are in an age where digital interaction outweighs face-to-face interaction in this age range.
The above statistics show that most of our students are already experts at communicating online. This can include many of the students we teach who are more introverted. Many see this as a negative. However, I believe that social media can be leveraged effectively when finding student mentors and building a network.
Here’s how to do it.
Picture Yourself in the Future. Find Someone Like That in the Now.
What do you want to do in the future? What are the steps necessary to get to that point? Chances are, there is already someone who has completed all of that.
Identify your personal skills and strengths, and start to make comparisons between those to others. Look at the path those individuals took to get to their level of success now. Are there things that are out of your control, or you physically cannot do?
I encourage my students not to identify one specific individual. Although they may excel in certain areas, there are probably areas where those people are not the best. And that’s okay, as there is not one individual who can mentor you in every aspect of your future. Create an inventory of potential mentors in this step to assist you in narrowing down the best choices.
Complete The Thing Every Student Dreads…Your Homework.
The beauty of the internet is we can learn a lot about someone before ever meeting them. Additionally, social media provides us with more of a personal glimpse into their lives.
Start to seek out as much information on each potential mentor as you can. Follow their blogs and social media accounts, watch Youtube videos about them, and read articles others have posted that involve them.
By doing this, you can start to identify what each individual’s strengths and weaknesses are. Additionally, you will be able to start to widdle down your list if certain individuals don’t possess the right skills to help you.
For the ones that make the cut, start to prepare questions for each individual. This is going to be important as you progress through each step.
Hit The Follow Button and Start Engaging.
An important step that many overlook is the importance of becoming a recognizable name before reaching out to people.
Although we live in a time where we can simply direct message a celebrity on social media, that is not the right approach when trying to build a professional relationship. You may get lucky and get a response, but engaging with that person in other ways beforehand will increase your chances of open dialogue.
I try to encourage my students to follow their potential student mentors on every platform they use actively. I don’t mean sign up and download every social media app. Pick the ones where you have existing followers and content, and focus on those specifically. If you have an existing audience, you will be looked at as more credible.
Start liking and sharing their posts. Comment on whatever is available. Ask questions to them or their existing audience. Follow some of their most engaged followers.
By completing these steps in advance, you will find a few different things will happen:
- Others may find you as a good source of information within their niche and give you a follow. This will increase your own credibility to your potential student mentors.
- You get some informal responses from the potential mentor. This can increase the chance that they recognize your name or social media handle later.
- You learn some new things from their audience. Maybe you get a response to a question from someone else that really gets you thinking.
- You start identifying new potential mentors you haven’t discovered before through shared content or engagement.
- Others may seek you out as a mentor of their own.
There is a lot of advantage to this step, and it should not be taken lightly. Strategize your approach to each potential student mentors posts, and find ways to break through the noise without being too annoying. This will make the following steps a lot easier.
“The Ask” of the Student Mentors.
It is time to take advantage of all of your work to this point. Reach out to the person directly through direct messages and try to start a conversation. You will be surprised how likely people will answer at this point. More so if they know you are a student.
The important piece I tell my students is to not open up a dialogue with something that can be easily ignored or answered. Instead, pose a question that does not have a yes or no answer. Craft something thoughtful that shows you know the individual, you look up to them, and want to learn more from them. This will help you in receiving a response.
Additionally, it is important to be informal. Don’t outright ask the person to be your mentor. Instead, try to learn a few pieces of information from them that will assist you in your endeavours and leave it at that.
And don’t forget to thank them! It is amazing how often this isn’t done.
Evaluate and Follow Up.
Ask yourself, “Did I learn something from this conversation? Is there a potential for further discussion? Is this the right student mentor for me?”
Evaluate the conversation you have each time, regardless of how small or complex it was. You do not want to waste further time on someone who can’t help you.
Following up with each person you talk to is very important as well. Show them proof that you’ve utilized their advice. This will not only restart the conversation, but it will also show the student mentors you take their advice to heart.
What Can Happen Once Student Mentors Have Been Organically Established
By continuing with the above steps, you will be able to develop a collection of digital student mentors in a short period of time. Additionally, you will also have a resource of people willing to help you build up your portfolio, following, and personal brand.
By successfully utilizing strategies given to you by student mentors, they may be willing to show you off to their followers. The effects of this will set you up for more success, open you up to more feedback and praise, and provide you with more opportunities in the future.
You also have experts who can provide effective feedback to you prior to a new release or change in whatever it is you are seeking mentorship for. This can lead to an increase in whatever metrics you are seeking out through your efforts.
I utilize this with my own blog. I try to get in touch with individuals or businesses I reference through the post before publishing it to show that I find them to be a credible source for the topic. This has lead to retweets and shares from people with much wider followings than I have.
Finding student mentors can be an intimidating and tough process. However, by using the tools that students already master, these individuals can be sought out and contacted from anywhere in the world.
You are no longer limited to the process of mentorship where you have to ask someone to go for coffee and try to make schedules work. Because social media allows all of us to discuss ideas remotely, it also allows the mentorship process to become much simpler.
Student mentors can be invaluable resources. My students have made huge strides with their startups, side hustles, and personal branding efforts from people they will probably never meet in person. And those people keep providing more advice and insight as they progress through steps. Additionally, these mentorship opportunities have helped develop connections elsewhere that support them locally.
Commit to the person, and they will do the same. As you learn and grow from them, you will start to find yourself being sought out as the future mentor of another up-and-coming student.
Share your student mentor experiences in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!