UST Law just wrapped up orientation week for our first year law students. As part of orientation week we had a panel of speakers present on the benefits of Mentor Externship. I want to focus on a comment from one of our panelists, UST graduate Chris Wheaton.
Chris was so effective in maximizing both the learning and networking opportunities for mentor externship that I invited him to share his strategies with our new students. I thought Chris’ best piece of advice was that students need to “own” their mentor program experience. Specifically, he cautioned students against sitting back passively and hoping that their mentors would simply know what experiences to show the student. Chris encouraged students to communicate regularly and really help direct the mentor relationship so that their mentors know what they are hoping to get learn this year. Owning his law school mentor experience helped Chris not only identify the area of law in which he wanted to practice but also helped him build his own practice so that he was ready to open a law firm when he graduated.
One of my mentors used to share similar advice with all the new lawyers in our law firm. This colleague was known for encouraging and mentoring new lawyers but never forcing them to take advantage of the opportunities he was offering. When a new lawyer would question whether it was worth the investment of time to go to some networking event or to try something new this mentor would say, “Well, you have to do what you want. It’s your career. I’ve already built my career.”
Whether it is in your mentor relationships or in your career in general we all have to take ownership of getting the experience and opportunities we want. It is tempting to sit back and complain that another colleague got better opportunities than you did. We forget that many of those people made their own luck. If we want different opportunities we need to work for them. In the end, it is our career. We need to make things happen. Part of generating those opportunities is engaging our entire constellation of mentors. How often do you tell all of your mentors what new experience or opportunity you are looking for?