How to Find a Mentor in Graduate School

iStudent Blog

Published: November 30, 2020 by Leslie Parry

Enrolling in the San José State University School of Information is both a thrilling step and a daunting one. With so many pathways possible in the information science field – and any number of courses and specialties to choose from – how can you be sure you’re making the best decisions for your future career? Who can you turn to with your carefully considered ideas and random, panicked questions? Luckily, no matter your needs or interests, the iSchool can help you find a mentor. Whether they’re seasoned professionals, recent alumni or even senior students, mentors can offer anything from academic recommendations to career advice; they can suggest networking opportunities as well as skills to hone for your résumé. No matter if it’s a formal mentorship sponsored by a professional association or a more informal connection made through the iSchool – having a mentor is critical to professional growth. To find a mentorship opportunity that’s right for you, check out the resources below.

Find an iSchool Faculty Advisor

The iSchool makes it easy to connect with faculty members who are ready and willing to share their expertise. Using this simple tool, students can search for either a pathway advisor (a faculty member with a particular specialty) or a generalist advisor (one who can help more broadly with career goals and academic plans). It can be intimidating to contact someone out of the blue, so to help break the ice, faculty advisors have created welcome videos to introduce themselves and their work.

Alternatively, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professor whose class you’ve enjoyed, or one who has experience in topics you want to explore. More often than not, professors are happy to share their stories and encourage you on your path.  

Explore Resources from the American Library Association (ALA)

ALA and its affiliates offer an array of mentoring programs that focus on many different skills and specialties. Under the ALA umbrella you’ll find mentorship opportunities in public librarianship, academic librarianship, school librarianship, law librarianship, technical services, youth services and other areas. 

Look into Student Groups and Professional Associations

Becoming a member of an SJSU iSchool student group is a great way to connect to professional associations and all the resources they offer. In addition to ALA, national associations like the Special Libraries Association (SLA), Society of American Archivists (SAA), Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) and REFORMA all offer mentorship opportunities for students and emerging professionals. Many of the local chapters do as well, so if you’re interested in connecting to local professionals, check to see if there is a mentoring program in your area. 

As an active member of a student group, you also have the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with other iSchool students, faculty, alumni and guest speakers, all of whom can potentially connect you to a mentor – or even act as one.

Check out the iSchool Advising and Administration Canvas Site

Not only is the iSchool Advising and Administration site on Canvas a superb resource for just about every academic and administrative need, there is an entire page devoted to LIS career support. This includes a comprehensive, hyperlinked list of mentoring programs and resources. Once you’re logged into Canvas, you can navigate to the list from here:

  • From your Canvas dashboard, click on the iSchool Advising and Administration tile.
  • Click the “Advising and Administrative” link. 
  • Under “Choosing Your MLIS Career Pathway and Developing a Focused Plan,” select “Career Resources, Professional Associations, Mentoring and Other Useful Links.”
  • Scroll down to “LIS Professional Associations offer leadership, mentoring and networking opportunities.”
  • Chart your path forward!

Connect to Peer Mentors

The peer mentors of INFO 203 are invaluable guides for new students. They have the perspective, patience and technical proficiency to explain online learning tools, the graduate school workload and all the skills that are necessary to succeed in a virtual environment, from time management to effective research. If you’re enrolled in INFO 203, take advantage of their knowledge! They will help you strategize for the road ahead. If you’re in a different program or have already taken 203, you can always return to their excellent video tutorials, which continue to be useful throughout graduate school.

When looking for a mentor, the simplest, most important thing you can do is just reach out and start a conversation. It may seem tough at first, but it’s a practice that will serve you well in whatever illustrious career awaits you.


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