Diverse Conversations: Finding a Mentor
Diverse - 02/04/2014
Mentorship is a huge part of professional success in higher education. If nothing else, having a solid mentor helps higher education professionals to develop valuable contacts and integrate themselves into their employer institution.
Finding a mentor, though, can be a tricky thing. Some people are naturally good at formulating mentor-mentee relationships. Others simply don’t know where to start.
To get some insight into how higher education professionals can go about finding the right mentor for their career goals, I sat down with Dr. John Caron, senior associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs in the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University, who has made mentorship a key area of his professional focus.
Q: Starting with a fairly obvious but important question, tell me some of the key benefits of having a mentor in a higher education professional setting?
A: I’ve found that having someone you can reach out to when you need advice or talk through an issue you’re dealing with is immensely valuable when working in a higher education professional setting. Throughout the course of my professional life, which spans about 25 years, I’ve been fortunate to have had many mentors at different points and times during my career.
One of the most influential mentors to me was a former supervisor who became a mentor to me for seven or eight years. As a first-generation college graduate, I found myself wanting to pursue a doctorate degree while working full-time and I was trying to figure out how to make that goal happen. My mentor had actually gotten her doctorate while working full time, so she was great at helping me map out the pathway and, more importantly, instill the confidence in me to make this happen. I don’t think that I would have done it without her — she was a role model because she not only achieved it herself, but showed me how I could do it.
Q: What sort of mentorship has played a role in your career? What have been some of the key highlights for you?
A: One key role my mentors have provided me with is helping me navigate new positions in higher education that required a different level of leadership. For example, as you take on positions of increasing responsibilities, the leadership skills that worked in previous positions may not work. My mentors were very helpful in giving me advice about how to develop skills I needed to be an effective leader.