February 15, 2005

I need a mentor

The other day I went to the library to look at the US News & World Report rankings of grad schools. I'm seriously considering going to grad school in 2006, or possibly 2007, but the only people I've told are two of my closest friends and the woman at the reference desk in the library. I looked at it for a while, and then looked through the Peterson's guide, and thought, this is not useful.

I don't need a reference book. I need a mentor. I need someone who's older than I am, who understands my situation (where I'm coming from, how I approach decisions, my academic interests, the rest of my life) or at least thinks kind of similarly to me, who has more perspective than I do, and who is in a position to give me decent advice about what I should do. I don't know anyone like that. My parents kind of know my deal, but they so clearly have their own ideas of what my life should be like that I don't trust their advice; they also really don't understand me that well, which is fine. My friends are basically all my age, and have no clear perspective on this stage of decision-making because they're in the middle of it; on the other hand, they understand me pretty freakin' well. My professors are 3000 miles away, and they all obviously chose academia; the two I'm closest to might be able to help me think about what I want, but the one who probably seriously considered a non-academic life seems more like a peer than a mentor. My boss has never really considered going to grad school, and what he wants out of his life is totally different from what I want. I'm living with my grandmother, but if there was ever anyone whose advice I shouldn't take, it's her.

How do you find a mentor? How do you approximate one? I've tentatively decided that by the fall of 2006 I'll not only have a long-term plan, but be in the first stages of getting it done (i.e. going to grad school, or enrolled in a teacher certification program, or hired by some company or organization where I'd like to work for at least a couple of years). But I desperately need perspective outside myself on what grad school in the humanities-oriented social sciences is actually like, and what it feels like to be a professor, and so on. Whether the thing I would want to study is even an option in the field I think I'm interested in. What my alternatives are. Academic blogs are my distractor of choice lately, but they only tell me so much.


AiE said...

I have no idea what your academic background and interests are, so I'm not sure if I can help. But are there any grad programs that you're interested in?

I applied to a grad program awhile back. I had e-mailed the professor I wanted to work with before I sent in my application and she and I formed a mentor/mentee relationship via e-mail and phone call.

On her advice (and a lot of other reasons), I didn't end up going to the grad program she teaches in. But because we work in similar areas, her mentorship has been and continues to be incredibly helpful. We e-mail every few months or so.

On another note, I did both humanities and social sciences in my grad program. I taught for awhile and now work as a writer for a nonprofit. If you'd like to know more about what grad school and work life have been for me, drop me an e-mail.

North said...

I'm totally going to take you up on the offer of stories/advice. Soon.

Carrie said...

I just found your blog thru your great Valentine's Day post in conjunction with media girl. A few things you said relate to what I've been doing in my life, which is kind of freaky. You mention kind of dating someone 3000 miles away- two years ago I was (now we live together); my younger sister also is "lovely, intelligent, practical, somewhat insecure" lol, and we live in the Boston area, and finally- I made the big leap two years ago to commit myself to finding a grad school, so I could totally changing careers and become a teacher and through a laborious process and 5 continuing ed classes I'm just waiting for my acceptance letters. What's the use of this comment? Not sure- but good luck w/ everything; I'll be interested in seeing how you make out w/ finding a mentor as it is a good idea but tricky to achieve.