STEM professionals are justifiably proud of their fields. Scientists, engineers, and mathematicians are all incredibly valuable members of society and industry who help discover new technologies, develop new and better ways of doing things, and whose work generally improves the lives of million people across the world.
As important as STEM professionals are, however, there’s one thing that many of them can do to make an even bigger impact: Become a mentor to young students. Young minds, especially those that are interested in pursuing a career in a STEM field, need nurturing, and the best people to do that are other professionals who can foster intellect and curiosity while also providing practical tips on getting a job and learning new skills.
If you’ve ever considered becoming a mentor, there’s no better time than now.
Becoming a Mentor – Where to Start
As with almost anything, the hardest part of becoming a mentor is probably figuring out how to get started. Where should an aspiring STEM mentor go to find pupils? Are there any organizations that can provide support? What’s the best place to find students who most need the help, and who are really committed to taking the lessons they learn and applying them to their lives?
On that front, we’ve got some good news: There are lots of organizations that are looking for STEM mentors to partner with students, and they are ready to do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of getting the relationship between mentor and student off the ground.
Organizations like Global STEM Alliance, the Corporation for National & Community Service, and other similar groups are always looking for people willing to volunteer their time; even more opportunities are available through local universities, community colleges, high schools, and educational organizations. If you truly want to become a mentor, the opportunity is just a Google search or a phone call away.
I’ve Become a Mentor – Now What?
Congratulations—you’re now a STEM mentor! You’ve got a big task ahead of you. By taking a student under your wing, you’re assuming at least partial responsibility for their future success. Any good mentor takes that responsibility incredibly seriously, which is why so many worry about what exactly they’re supposed to do. While there’s no one objectively correct way to be a mentor—each student and each teacher are different, after all—here are some good starting points:
- • Listen: Mentoring is more than just talking while the student listens. If you ever had a bad teacher when you were in school, then you know just how quickly an uncommunicative or overly stubborn teacher can kill a student’s interest in learning. Listen when your student has something they need to say, and take their concerns seriously.
- • Care: Becoming a mentor means assuming responsibility for your student. That means putting in extra work when it’s needed and demonstrating a genuine interest in your student’s learning and progress.
- • Be Available: For many students, a mentor is more than just a teacher they get lessons from for a few hours every week. Your student may want to ask you advice on other things or need you to be a parental figure for them. If you’re not up to the task, then you might want to take the time to connect your student with a mentor who can provide them with the kind of attention they need.
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