Mentorship is a Two Way Street

One of the many great components of the Rutgers School of Engineering community is the endless opportunities to network and meet people of various backgrounds and experiences. As a new STEM student, most of us are hoping to gain knowledge from the more experienced veterans who have made their own path already in their college careers. I’ve experienced both perspectives; being a mentee and serving as a mentor and it’s been truly rewarding.

While in my first two years of college, I sought many mentors that either naturally wanted to help me grow or those who shared similar interests with me. Either way, all of them had years of experience ahead of me, which made me aspire to utilize their knowledge and mold it into a path that matched my strengths. Conversely, I began to gain my own experience and had others sought out mentorship from me. A very odd feeling indeed, to have someone look up to you when you always have looked up to others. This is when I truly understood what mentorship means. Mentors do not necessarily have to have the perfect resume, or the greatest experiences in order to mentor someone. A mentor is a person who is able to leverage their personal experiences as a way to guide their mentee to something that suits them. You must build your relationship with your mentee and understand them as they try to understand you.

So now you have your mentee, what happens then? This is when I realized that every mentorship relationship is different as they go, meaning there is no syllabus on what to cover. With my mentees, I built my relationship differently depending on what the relationship was established for. It all depends on what you both like to accomplish after each day. I have had mentees of different majors, different backgrounds, and even mentees that are older than me! Try to think to yourself and pinpoint what were the great aspects of your mentor. Why did you always go back for their advice specifically? Was it because of their experience, or was it their personality? All these considered, I finally understood how my mentors navigated me to my right path. Now, it was my turn to do the same. It involves a fair bit of listening, conversing, understanding, and empathy. And if I did not have the answer myself, I made sure to find someone who had the answer to guide my mentee in the proper direction. It’s important to not have any bias to truly see your mentee grow and get closer to their goals. Even if it means staying up till 2 in the morning helping them edit their resume, a research position application, or a computer science assignment they just started!

At these realizations, I have been able to become a more confident mentor and am able to steer more types of mentorship relationships with all sorts of personality traits. I understand what my mentees need and what they would like out of me, and vice versa. The misconception is that mentors do not learn from mentees, but that’s absolutely not true! These relationships have been able to help me grow personally as a leader, and how I work with those around me. I too have my own strengths and weaknesses that my mentees are welcome to help me break out of. I actively listen to their feedback and come back feeling even more confident. Mentorship is an endless cycle that when you have the right match.

-Meghna MAE ‘21