Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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The right mentor can be your guide to success


As a Mississippi adult returning to complete your degree, a mentor can help position you for the future, giving you the benefit of their expertise and experience. Whether you’re pursuing a new career or advancing in a current one, having a mentor that understands you and your goals is a huge advantage. A good mentor can help you tackle difficult decisions, provide wise counsel, and provide support as you plot your course to success.

The definition of a mentor

According to Marina D’Abreau Denny, assistant extension professor at Mississippi State University, a mentor is a seasoned person “who can teach, guide, and protect his or her mentee by providing vocational support and serving as a role model for desired behaviors.” In other words, it’s someone – a friend, older student, supervisor, professor, family member, industry professional, etc. – who can help you understand and navigate the important things in your life.

The benefits of having a mentor

As an adult learner, a mentor can provide you with incredibly valuable tools for both your schooling and career. They offer knowledge, experience, insights, encouragement, and connections to people you might not otherwise have access to. More importantly, they know what it takes to succeed – from earning a degree to excelling in their chosen careers. By taking a long-range view of your growth and development, the right mentor can:

  1. Be a source of wisdom and experience within your major/career

  2. Challenge you to think critically

  3. Provide perspective

  4. Become your personal advocate at school/work

  5. Help you envision your goals (without giving you a detailed map to get there)

  6. Offer encouragement (but not “how-to” advice)

The first thing you should do is determine your specific goals. What results do you seek by taking on a mentor? Once you know why you want a mentor, you go out and find the right person.

Choosing your mentor

You will have to actively seek out the person you want and ask them to be your mentor. It helps to understand your learning style so you can find a mentor who will “fit” well with you. Here are some other characteristics of a good mentor:

  1. Willing to share their expertise and experience

  2. Has a positive, enthusiastic attitude

  3. Knows how to motivate you

  4. Is a good role model for you

  5. Communicates well with you

  6. Provides guidance and constructive criticism

  7. Is well-respected – in your desired field of study/career

Make a list of 3-4 people who meet these criteria for you, and then invite each one to have coffee with you. Spend some time talking with them, sharing your expectations, and getting a “feel” for what type of mentor they would be. Ultimately, “fit” with you is the most important quality for your mentor to have.

Alternatively, there are websites – like – that serve to connect people with appropriate mentors. This might be a good choice if you are studying mostly online or just don’t have the time for much face-to-face interaction.

The right way to work with your mentor

Once you have selected a mentor, it helps if you have realistic expectations and understand how to best utilize your mentor’s skills. Not all mentor relationships are successful. First, let’s be clear on what a mentor is NOT. Your mentor is not your tutor or study partner. You do not contact them with help on assignments or homework. Your mentor is not a buddy or a prospective employer. Your mentor is an invaluable resource that you treat with professional respect.

The most important thing needed to get the most out of your relationship with a mentor is your total commitment to learning and growing personally and professionally. To properly utilize your mentor, says you should do the following:

  1. Invest your time in seeking out a mentor with whom you feel a natural fit

  2. Share your goals and fears openly

  3. Don’t expect the mentor to solve your short-term problems or do the work for you

  4. Don’t expect specific advice

  5. Share where you are struggling or failing

  6. Listen carefully and then research and apply the mentor’s guidance

  7. Show that you value the mentor’s support

Guidance for going back to school

If you’re considering returning to college to complete your degree, Complete 2 Compete can give you the support and guidance you need. The C2C program helps Mississippi adults identify the clearest pathway to completing their degree. You’ll get the support of a C2C coach who will help guide you through the process of earning your degree.


C2C is a state program that helps Mississippi adults who previously attended college earn a degree and create a brighter future.