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Having a mentor can help university students and professionals at all experience levels with objective guidance that can help chart a career path. Mentors can help you make the most of your education and help ease the transition from school to work. And, working with a mentor during the early part of a career is an excellent way to explore career path options within your field. Mentors can pass along their own career experiences, help you meet and interact with other professionals, share new approaches to the work done in your field, and help keep you up-to-date on new techniques or industry segments. Both students and mentors benefit from the relationship. 

In selecting a mentor it is important to be sure you'll both have the time to communicate, and that each can be honest about any situation.  Trust is key to a successful mentoring relationship.  Sometimes a common friend or cohort is a good way to identify a mentor, and other times it may be necessary to explore professional organizations or national or regional mentoring programs to identify a mentor for you.

Online Resources
Many professional organizations offer mentoring programs to help connect students or young professionals with a mentor in their field.  An example is the ASME E-Mentoring Program. Universities often also coordinate mentoring programs.  An examples can be found at Wright State University's website and through Dartmouth College's Women in Science Project. The following sites also offer resources on mentoring:

Career Cornerstone Center Profile Excerpts
The following excerpts from Cornerstone profiles address the value of mentoring:

Anne J. Gorczyca, P.E.

Assistant Area Construction Manager
Massachusetts Highway Department
Boston, MA

"I have a great deal of support from the two managers I work for, my manager and our director of construction and I consider them mentors, people I can sit down and talk to and get feedback. They even volunteer feedback to me and I think that has made my job here and my transition to a management role so much easier, having people who support you and are there as a resource."
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Carlton S. Serrette, E.I.T.

Project Engineer
Malcolm Pirnie, Inc.
White Plains, NY

"I have a mentor, my supervisor. And right now there are a couple of junior engineers below me that I mentor, so I try to teach them things that happened over the few years that I've been working. So yes, there are certain types of mentorship, you're not left out there to hang and dry, you're always given someone to help you along the way."
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Todd Edgington
Systems Engineer
Genentech
San Francisco, CA

"Through my career I've actually been kind of lucky. I've had a mentor at every step. In San Diego, it was my boss. She was a chemical engineer, and she brought me along, taught me, and gave me my first taste of programming PLCs, which are programmable logic controllers. In my second job, I worked for a 17-year veteran in instrumentation and controls, and he was fantastic. He taught me quite a lot about what makes very good Level I control, PID loops, and things like that. Now here at Genentech, fortunately, I have another great boss who is very competent at the actual software engineering. He also has a strong HVAC background, which is heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The systems that control those are all automated, and we're getting into the design of that software as well."
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Thomas Bean

Corporate Counsel
Lucent Technologies
Holmdel, NJ

"I think once you go to work, you find that mentors are available and very important. I had a number of people throughout my career show me the ropes and kind of explain to me how things work and how to go about solving new kinds of problems that I hadn't grappled with before, that they had grappled with. So I would suggest it's very helpful to sort of hitch yourselves to the rising stars and coattails of others who've gone before you, and that you can learn quite a bit from them that'll be helpful to you in your career."
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Deborah Rech

Food Engineer
Thomas J. Lipton Company
Englewood Cliffs, NJ

"When I first started, I did have a mentor. He was in the food industry for about 25 years. He had basically seen it, done it, and he was very helpful at providing direction for the experiments. He didn't really list things out: Do this, do that, do this. I would set up my own design and he would emphasize a certain area to work in. So he was very helpful."
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