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What is Mentorship? Why You Might Need a Mentor and How to Find One

Mentorship is a coaching relationship in which knowledge and expertise is passed down from one person to another. It can be crucial in a competitive job market, but to find a mentor, you need to know where to look.
A graphic of three people helping each other up platforms used to represent what mentorship is

Mentorship is more than having an industry connection. It’s an alliance that can shape the next chapters of your life and career.

“At its simplest form, mentoring is a relationship focused on personal or professional development between people where someone with more experience can help support someone with less experience,” said Sara Telfer, senior associate director of alumni engagement at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) and an expert on mentorship.

Sara Telfer, senior associate director of alumni engagement at SNHU

Telfer noted that mentorship can be formal and structured or informal and evolving. “Both types of relationships can be impactful and necessary at times,” she said. 

Despite their value, some people have never experienced a mentor relationship. Mentorship has increased in the long-term, according to an article by Education Week, but there’s currently a “mentoring gap” affecting Gen Z, who are less likely than millennials to have had a mentor. The article reported some Gen Z students might not know where they can find a mentor — in part because many mentorship programs became unavailable during the Covid-19 pandemic — while others don’t appreciate how beneficial mentorship can be. 

So, Why is Mentorship Important?

The job market has become increasingly competitive, according to Forbes. To set yourself apart from the pack, you might need some personalized coaching, guidance and insider advice.

Joanna Luiso, a director of career and professional development at SNHU

“Learning from someone who has experience, wisdom and understands what it was like to be in your shoes is invaluable,” said JoAnna Luiso, a director of career and professional development at SNHU with 18 years of experience in career services.

Luiso highly recommended this personal and professional development strategy and noted a variety of its benefits. 

“Having the support from a mentor can help individuals work toward achieving specific goals, acquire new skills or hone existing ones, build a network and increase their confidence,” she said.

And if you set your goals high, you might actually need a mentor to help you reach them. According to Harvard Business Review, 75% of executives credit their professional success to mentors. That’s something to keep in mind if you plan to work your way to the top of your field.

Who Should Look for a Mentor?

A blue graphic with an icon of two white outlined hands shaking“Anyone can seek out mentorship,” Luiso said. “Whether you’re a student or seasoned professional, mentorship can be beneficial.”

Telfer agreed, but she said if you’re seeking out this kind of relationship, you need to be willing to put in the work. 

“It takes effort to have open, meaningful conversations and you must be willing to make the time, follow through and be consistent in building a connection,” she said. “Especially at the beginning.”

If you are looking for a mentor, she recommended having a certain goal or outcome that you hope to achieve. 

“That could be navigating a graduate school application, succeeding in a new industry, managing a project or new task at work or managing a life change,” Telfer said. “Clarity can help you know what you are looking for and what questions to ask.”

If you’re a student or recent graduate on the path toward your new career, it could be the perfect time to seek out a mentor. And many schools, like SNHU, can help to connect you with a mentor in your field of study.

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How to Find a Mentor

As a student at SNHU, you can ask your advisor or career counselor about mentorship opportunities through the alumni office. You can also reach out to directly to ask about finding a mentor.

A blue graphic with a white and yellow compass icon

“Alumni are often happy to connect with students and fellow alumni,” Telfer said. “SNHU has a wonderful community that strives to help each other succeed.”

Professional networking also might help you to find a mentoring relationship. Telfer recommended using LinkedIn to build your network and reach out about mentorship opportunities.

“There is also an active and growing SNHU community group on LinkedIn,” she said.

Some experiential learning opportunities can lead to mentorship, too, according to Luiso, like internships or work-study opportunities. 

“Oftentimes, these connections can be made informally with individuals that students connect with every day, like their faculty, advisors or even their peers,” she said.

Luiso also encouraged students to get involved in clubs or organizations and to attend events and networking opportunities to try to meet potential mentors. But, she noted these connections don’t develop overnight.

“Just like any meaningful relationship, mentorship takes time and energy, and both parties have to be willing to put in the work to cultivate the relationship,” she said.

Leveling Up: How to Become a Mentor

A blue graphic with a white ladder iconIf you’ve already found success in your field, you could pay it forward by becoming a mentor and making a difference to a growing professional.

“SNHU alumni can indicate volunteer interests through their alumni profile by logging in at,” Telfer said. “When we get requests for connection points individually or for panels and events, we start with the folks that have raised their hands.”

According to Telfer, mentors should be comfortable talking about themselves and being honest about their experiences while offering advice. 

“The ability to manage difficult conversations and to meet their mentee where they are at developmentally will be helpful,” she said. “Mentoring is a commitment, so ensure that you can make the time to have ongoing conversations and be clear about how you can offer support.”

It’s also important to remember that growth is continuous, so you can have a mentor and be a mentor at the same time. In fact, even CEOs need mentors, according to Fast Company.

And even as a mentor, you can benefit from having a mentee. Telfer noted that mentorship is not a one-way street — it’s a mutual relationship where both the mentor and mentee can learn from each other.

“There is intrinsic value in helping someone,” she said. “But serving as a mentor can also refine your coaching and communication skills and expand your professional network.”

A degree can change your life. Choose your program from 200+ SNHU degrees that can take you where you want to go.

Mars Girolimon '21 '23G is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University where they earned their bachelor's and master's, both in English and creative writing. In addition to their work in higher education, Girolimon's short fiction is published in the North American Review, So It Goes by The Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library, X-R-A-Y and more. They're currently writing their debut novel, which was Longlisted for The First Pages Prize. Connect with them on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.