I find it funnier than I should when my generation uses the word “adult” as a verb:
“Dude, adulting is hard!”
“Why are there no youtube tutorials on how to adult?”
“I did my taxes this morning: adulting is painful and now I need a nap”.
You may or may not agree with me about the comedic value of the grammatically contorted “to adult”, but you will likely concur that this use is indicative of a sense of universal helplessness in the face of life: we don’t really come into this world equipped with a handy how-to manual giving us a step-by-step guide to how to be happy and successful.
…Or perhaps I just misplaced my personal copy of said manual (this would explain a lot) and you all still have yours on your nightstand, reading a few pages on the secrets of life before going to bed – if this is the case, please urgently send a scanned version, I have a lot of catching up to do.
Facetiousness aside, we could all use a little guidance in life given that, unless you believe in reincarnation, it is generally agreed that we only get one shot at it. The best source of knowledge on how to do something is someone who has already done it and is willing to teach you how: a mentor.
Mentorship is a relationship in which one party takes the other under their wing and teaches them the skills that have helped them succeed, so that the mentee may too succeed. Mentorship is key in one’s career, but it’s just as beneficial earlier in life: learning from someone that is where you want to be will make your journey there much easier.
So how does one find a mentor? It has to start with soul-searching: think about your goals, both personal and professional – what do you want to do in life? What kind of person do you want to be? Once you have a semblance of an answer you need to individuate what it would take for you to reach those goals: think not only in terms of qualifications but also in terms of skill sets and personality traits. The next step is to find someone who embodies those traits, has mastered that skill set or has achieved those qualifications: the people that fit your criteria are your potential mentors – they can be people you know in real life, like a teacher or an older student or your parents’ friend, or even people that don’t know you yet. Get in touch with these people and ask them if they’d be willing to devote a little time to help you grow: ask them for recommendations, advice and resources. Don’t be afraid of rejection: sometimes people may not have the time, but more often than not many are happy to help you out, because odds are that someone else helped them out when they were in your situation, and they are grateful for it and would like to pass on that same kindness.
So go to the teacher of your favourite subject and ask them for extra reading. Write to the lady doing your dream job and ask her what advice she would give to her younger self. Get in touch with that person whose blog you really love to ask for writing advice. Get out and form relationships with people you admire, and surround yourself with individuals you aspire to be like.
I am personally incredibly grateful to my past and current mentors, and generally to everyone in my life that has gone out of their way to make sure I hadn’t got lost on mine. Having people we look up to give us a hand is crucial in fulfilling our dreams – but they won’t know we could use their help unless we ask.
Maria Copot, University of Cambridge Graduate and Study Skills Coordinator at The Granta Academy