Mentoring is a fantastic way to learn technical and soft skills throughout your schooling and career. Mentors in high school and beyond can guide, teach, and be a source of support when you need advice. Behind every successful scientist and engineer there is a long line of mentors, teachers, and advisors who have helped them reach their goals.
But where do you look to find a mentor when you haven’t started your career or even decided what kind of engineer you want to be? This month we asked SWE engineers and technologists how a high school SWENexter could find a mentor and they had some fantastic advice to help you find the right mentor for you.
B.S. in Computer Science and Software Developer for Booz Allen Hamilton
Finding a mentor in high school can be challenging, but not impossible! I would recommend talking to a teacher at your school who you admire and ask them to be your mentor.
If there isn't a teacher at your high school that inspires you, then start looking outside of the classroom. Attend women in STEM events in your area and talk to those who oversee the event. If there are panelist speakers that you find interesting, follow up with them after the panel and ask for their email. You can even look for role models on social media. There are a ton of STEM professionals tweeting and posting to Instagram.
Finding a mentor online may be even more beneficial than an in-person mentor, as you can find someone who is more aligned to your interests. There is a great international database of women in STEM who are inspiring role models for young women called the FabFems directory. You can find a role model near you at this link. Maybe the role model could become an e-mentor to you.
There are people out there who want to mentor you, so don't be afraid to ask!
M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Founding SWE Advisor at Lorain County Community College
Most high schools have STEM Advisory Boards that the teachers are aware of. Students can benefit by having their teacher or STEM coordinator collaborate with the Advisory Board to find a mentor. A match can be made with a mentor based on the student’s area of interest
The student can job shadow the mentor and can stay in touch to receive career advice and guidance. Regular meetings with the mentor will be beneficial in the long run.
I have been personally mentoring students I’ve taught from the last five years and find it to be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience. I am certain that most SWE members will be more than happy to mentor high school students.
B.S. in Chemical Engineering and SWENext Program Volunteer Leader
Mentoring is just a relationship between two people. The experienced one is the mentor, and the one who can learn from that person’s experience is the protégé. So how do you find someone more experienced than you to be your mentor?
First, find out what engineers and engineering students you and your parents already know. It could be a cousin, aunt, neighbor, friend, or co-worker. Even if they aren’t the type of engineer you are interested in, they know a lot about studying engineering in college, finding a job, and working as an engineer. So they would be good to talk with and could answer many of the questions you might have. Ask for your parents’ help in setting up a time to talk with them, to see if they might be a good fit as a mentor. Or maybe they just want to communicate via email. E-mentoring works!
Another place to find a mentor is through the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). As a SWENext member, you are a part of the SWE community. There are 38,000 SWE members, and one of them could be your mentor! There are at least two ways to find a SWE mentor. If you know what college you might like to attend, reach out to the SWE section at that college and ask if someone would be willing to be your mentor. To find a contact name at the college, google “college nameSWE” (for example Carnegie Mellon SWE). You’ll likely find their website with “contact us” information in it.
If you aren’t sure what college you would like to attend, then look at the SWE section map for a SWE section near you. There are links to the sections’ websites so that you can find contact information. Here’s the link to the SWE section map.
When you reach out to the SWE section, make sure you tell them a little bit about yourself, such as your grade and your interests. That will help the section find a good mentor match for you.
If you still aren’t able to find a mentor, let the SWENext program volunteers help! Send an email to email@example.com, and we will help you find a mentor. We are here to support you on every step of your engineering journey!