Colleges tend to put a lot of emphasis on finding the right internship, and while this is important, finding the right mentor is equally as important.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a mentor is an experience and trusted advisor. Having someone that you trust and that you know has been where you are trying to go is a valuable asset. If you use this relationship well you might find it to be one of the most rewarding relationships.
Now, there is nothing wrong with having a man for a mentor. Trust me, I have a few. BUT, you need to have a female mentor as well!
Having a female mentor gives you the opportunity to ask women specific questions. It will also allow you to hear about some of the challenges that are specific to being a woman in politics. Knowing these challenges ahead of time, gives you the opportunity to determine how you want to react, or even better, how you should react. AND, I suggest running your instincts by your mentor so that she can flag any negative reactions they might receive.
A female mentor can also talk to you about how important your reputation is and can detail some scenarios that can jeopardize your reputation. These conversations, in my opinion, are better to have with a female mentor since there are things that can hurt a woman’s reputation, and potentially get her fired, that may or may not do nearly that much damage to a male counterpart.
Not specific to having a female mentor, but also important, you need someone to hold you accountable to your goals whenever you get scared. For example, I think about all of the consequences of having a “high profile” job within the political arena, and if you do too, there will come a time when you are overwhelmed by the unknown and want to give up. This is usually when I call my mentor, tell him or her how I am feeling, and they help me snap out of it. Having someone to defuse the situation is crucial not only to keeping you focused, but also to your sanity! Anxiety attacks are not fun!
One of the most important reasons for having a mentor, in my opinion, is that you need someone to help guide you towards your goals. If you are anything like me, you have written down your “end goal” but if you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s okay. However, when starting your career it is important that have a general idea of where you want to be in three years. Knowing where you want to be will help your mentor provide you with sound advice on which internships and or jobs will get you to that point. Additionally, knowing which opportunities to take will keep you moving towards your goal and decrease the amount of time you spend exploring offers that get you nothing other than an extra $1000 a month. Not saying that money isn’t important just saying it won’t always get you closer to your goal.
Ultimately, your mentor should be someone in your field, holding your dream job (or did at someone point), and, most importantly, should be someone that you admire and respect. The sooner you find your unicorn, you will be on your way to leaving your mark in politics.