Fast Track to Success with MentorNet

MentorNet, You Say?

“An experienced and trusted advisor.” Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who’s found one, a mentor will help open the door to opportunities you never thought possible. The problems involved with finding a mentor though are for the most part beyond the scope of the ordinary high school or college student. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we simply don’t have the resources. Before I discovered MentorNet I had oddly enough never thought to look into the possibility of an online mentorship. I maintained the belief that a mentor was someone who you not only needed to find, but had to develop a relationship with to the point that he/she knew and trusted you well enough to offer their time, guidance, and expertise. If it sounds difficult that’s because it is.

S.T.E.M. Only

MentorNet seeks to eliminate the hardest part of the process by directly matching you, a protégé, with qualified mentors. I should mention that the program is strictly limited to students pursuing a STEM degree. For those unfamiliar with STEM, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. So unfortunately this program won’t benefit everyone, but an incredible number of students still fall into one of these four categories. MentorNet claims to have restricted acceptance to this particular demographic because STEM students on average graduate at a lower rate than those in other degree fields. But it does make sense to target just those students, especially with careers in STEM growing at the current rate.

Now I haven’t looked into other similar services that extend their acceptance to all students regardless of major because quite frankly I didn’t know such a thing existed. If you’re still reading this I assume you’ve identified yourself as a STEM student and are eager to learn more.

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 So, What is It?

MentorNet is essentially a social network of protégés and mentors. Individuals in both roles fill out a brief questionnaire intended to expedite the matching process. It doesn’t take more than ten minutes to complete and consists almost entirely of questions aimed at what kind of mentor you want. You designate a desired level of education, industry experience, and even discussion topics for those students seeking help with personal issues. After completing your profile, protégé and mentor alike must complete a mandatory training session that ensures universal knowledge of the mentorship process across all members. At this point MentorNet presents you three mentor candidates for closer inspection and requires that you choose one and initiate a mentorship request. The recipient is then granted access to your profile from which he/she can determine if they are in fact a good fit for your personal situation and mentor needs. Should they decline you are again presented with three candidates and the process repeats until a match is successfully made.

You’re In

You and your mentor are required to communicate for just 15-20 minutes a week through the course of a four-month mentorship, but you’re certainly free to go above and beyond that quota if you’d like. During the next four months you and your mentor will develop short and long term goals to help you accomplish whatever it is you’re working toward. Part of the protégé/mentor relationship requires making a substantial effort and ultimately achieving to some degree the goals you’ve set. If after four months you decide as a pair to continue the relationship you are encouraged to do so for a maximum of 12 months. The one year limit serves to encourage growth and variety in the MentorNet community.

 Power of 2. The protégés in our program have 2 times the chance of graduating from college and entering a STEM career.

 Why Not?

I signed up last week because I couldn’t really find a reason not to. Although I feel it’s necessary to mention that after completing the final training I encountered a message which informed me that I’d need to wait for an email before I’m able to advance to the selection phase. I found it slightly disheartening that I wasn’t made aware of the apparent time-lapse between the application and selection processes before this point, so for anyone that also finds this a turnoff hear me out.

It’s The Product Life Cycle, Folks

MentorNet is currently undergoing “soft launch.” If you aren’t familiar with the term it’s not hard to infer the meaning. Any successful service that relies on a user base to function goes through a period of adoption and growth before it can even begin to live up to its full potential. All companies, services, start-ups, etc. need awareness to feed growth. Having been founded all the way back in 1997, they have results and statistics to verify that this isn’t week one, but it would appear upon first impression that they lack the numbers to support an immediate matching process. That’s one point.

Second, MentorNet advertises itself as a social network open to any STEM student in the United States. This fact is the first sentence read after performing a Google search. But upon further inspection of the flyer that caught my eye a few days ago, I saw the phrase ‘It’s FREE’ with a small asterisk whose annotation wasn’t far behind and read: “Your campus or professional society partners with MentorNet to provide this service at no fee to you.” This in conjunction with requiring a .edu email address leads me to believe that there is some sort of verification process performed on a per-user basis.

Please Wait…

In all honesty I’m not sure that I’ll be granted full entry or access to the selection process. Hopefully the delay is just a side effect of a fledgling community. Either way I don’t regret registering with MentorNet, as anyone who fits the criteria would only do themselves a great disservice by ignoring such an opportunity. I think it’s important to spread the word and help spur the growth of a service with such awesome potential. Sign up whether you’re a student or a professional and devote an hour each month to bettering your future or someone else’s. When I get that email I’ll follow up.

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Better Yourself and Others, Become an ‘Expert’ Today

Authors, journalists, biographers, reporters, bloggers, and columnists. They all have one thing in common (other than being synonyms). Each posses the burning desire to inform and influence the world around them; a unique motive behind the chosen target audience as well as every article published.

Here at WordPress bloggers dominate the scene. Most accredit their writing to one of two motives: a hobby or providing help/services. Unfortunately, countless bloggers lack the time, motivation, or whatever it may be, to impact a large and diversified audience. Helpful souls look no further!

The next best thing to managing your own successful blog is to contribute to one that’s already established a growing audience. Enter Lifehack, a “source for tips to help improve all aspects of your life.” Comparable in looks and content to the well-known Lifehacker, Lifehack provides the hungry mind with an endless supply of informative, concise articles guaranteed to help improve your lifestyle. With over 5 million unique monthly visitors, Lifehack has rightfully earned the endorsement of many major newspapers, magazines, and online publications. It’s incredibly large and diverse team of contributors provide tips on seemingly every subject imaginable with the goal of “just want[ing] to make your life as friction-free as possible.”

Lifehack doesn’t attract millions of visitors each month without continually adding talented individuals to it’s team of authors. If you’d like to know just how many talented people they employ, take a look at their Authors page. Now tell me that’s not impressive? Tell me you don’t think you’d at least have a shot at your own dedicated portfolio with Lifehack? The numbers don’t lie, and LifeHack certainly isn’t shy about recruiting new talent either. Check out this quote from their recruitment page:

“If you want to kickstart your career, you will need your own online portfolio. By sharing your skills and expertise at Lifehack, people will have a way to know you.”

 

By the looks of it they’re open to experts on any subject one can think of, especially those topics that have yet to appear on Lifehack. So, now that you know the gist of it, you should have an idea of whether this opportunity sounds like something you’d excel at. Here are the three things Lifehack looks for in an ‘Expert’:

  • Passion: “Our acceptance rate hovers at 30% or below. You have to demonstrate strong passion in improving other people’s lives to be a Lifehack expert.”
  • Experience: “We look for candidates who love writing. You have to make sure that your thoughts go into the text easily.”
  • Willingness to Learn: “We offer all sorts of support. If you want to hone your online writing skills, Lifehack could help you reach your wildest goal.”

Sound like you? I for one know I’d jump at the chance to reach such a massive and varied audience. Not to mention, owning the title of Lifehack ‘Expert’ can’t exactly hurt your current blogging endeavors. I’ve posted the link to the main contribution page, just scroll down to find the ‘Apply Now’ button.

Contribute to Lifehack

 

If anything, send an email to one of the three contributors listed on the linked page. I’d like to reach out to at least one just to get an idea of what it takes to be an expert. If/when I receive a reply I’ll certainly put it up for all you inquiring minds.

 

“Your Identity Doesn’t Get Found. It Emerges.”

Take a moment to think about the title quote. Do you search for yourself, or feel happy and content with who you are right now?

Today I began reading The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. I stumbled across the book on an entrepreneurial blog and just found the time to open it this afternoon. Halfway through the second chapter I froze. An epiphany? I thought.

Your identity doesn’t get found. It emerges.

For a very long time I was caught up in discovering who I really am. The search for myself largely dominated my thoughts and negatively impacted my schoolwork. I was constantly overwhelmed by a sense of urgency to uncover my true-self and begin pursuing my dreams as soon as possible. That is, until today.

Epiphany

My eyes fell upon the period marking the end of two of the most influential sentences I’ve ever read. I paused, Was it possible that seven words arranged into two concise sentences could solve a problem that had plagued me for nearly six months? I carefully read over each phrase, a slight grin sneaking across my face. I had found relief.

How I managed to make it so long without truly understanding such a simple concept I’ll never know. It’s certainly not a foreign idea. We’re all inherently aware of it, but our individual perceptions can differ to some degree. Personally, I believed myself, at only twenty, to be blessed with the understanding that one’s passions and values are the key to living a happy and successful life. Specifically, the “never work a day in your life,” life.

We’re all raised with the notion that the happiest people on earth live to work, while the rest work to live. From day one of kindergarten we’re encouraged to dream big and never sell ourselves short of any goal, no matter the magnitude. With age we learn that life isn’t quite the open book it once appeared. Nevertheless, we go to school year after year, day after day, with the hope of finding that one true passion that can drive us for the rest of our life.

But how many of us actually find that thing that we love so much as to devote sixty years to it? In my opinion, drawing from my brief observation of this world, too few.

Comfort in Acceptance

Now you know why I was so obsessed with finding my “true-self.” I thought I recognized the immense value in discovering yourself early enough to make something special of it. I convinced myself that the real me was in there, buried deep beneath some obscure layers of self-realization.  To uncover it was the first step in my path toward personal fulfillment and ultimately success. But, that’s not right.

At twenty years old it’s impossible to identify a lifelong passion. Hell, it may not even exist yet. What Hoffman and Casnocha stress in chapter two of their guidebook is the role of actions and experience in shaping ones dreams. “Your aspirations shape what you do. But your aspirations are themselves shaped by your actions and experience.” Although you may know exactly where you want to be in twenty years, each and every event that transpires in that time will reshape your dreams, aspirations, and possibly even passions.

At any one moment there’s no way to completely or accurately predict where life will take you. I so quickly became obsessed with controlling my future that I lost respect for the art of life and simply letting it happen. I don’t plan on handing over the reigns, but if there is a perfect mix between controlling life and it controlling you, I patiently await the day when I confidently know I’ve attained it.

A Weight Lifted

For now, I don’t think it’d hurt to narrow the scope of my thinking, if only slightly. I no doubt have reached a level of maturity most of my peers aim to postpone. Maybe I need new friends, or maybe I truly have been blessed with a different, but better way of thinking. Every day I learn something new about myself. I never close a door, because who’s to say my passion won’t come knocking tomorrow?

So I keep an open mind and encourage you to do the same. Identify your current aspirations and shoot for them. All the while maintaining the knowledge that they will most definitely change, but that’s not such a bad thing.

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Business, a Remedy for Collegiate Confusion?

Studying for a marketing exam prompted me to pass along a piece of advice I would find helpful had I not already declared a minor.

If you find yourself questioning your major, minor, or any of the serious, life-changing decisions a college student must make on a regular basis, I encourage you to not only consider taking, but to enroll in, at least one business course.

Business majors are no doubt victim to some of the more severe stereotyping known to accompany a field of study. A degree in business carries with it a set of negative connotations. As a result, strangers may be quick to make assumptions about you as a person, or more specifically, your work ethic.

This certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. But, after just two years attending a university with a top ten business school, I’ve seen nearly every stereotype validated more times than I can count. Fortunately, if you heed my advice, only a few will apply to you.

Whether a senior in high school, an incoming freshman, a fifth-year, or anything in-between, a deeper understanding of business is never a bad thing. The decision to declare myself a business minor has (so far) proved equally as rewarding as the decision to pursue a BS in computer science, if not more.

For students positive they want to pursue a career solely in entrepreneurship, a (full) business degree is a no-brainer.

For the rest of us, the benefits of a business minor might not be immediately obvious.

Let me clarify that I’m not encouraging anyone to declare themselves a business major. Rather, I’m encouraging all who have found their respective field of study, yet refuse to eliminate the possibility of an entrepreneurial career, to take at least one business course.

Take anything. Be it a 100-level introductory course or something more specific like accounting or marketing. It really doesn’t matter as long as the door to business remains open.

In the end, if you decide to declare yourself a business minor, congrats! I can’t think of a better way for an aspiring entrepreneur to improve him/herself than in this very manner. While rudimentary when compared to their “major” counterparts, courses designed specifically for business minors (a.k.a. non-business majors) divulge a wealth of general business knowledge essential to every beginning entrepreneurs arsenal.

Having completed just three of the required courses for my business minor, I’m already unable to find a reason not to recommend them to everyone I see.

Find a career path where a deeper understanding of accountingbusiness law, and marketing is entirely useless and throw it in a comment below.

Opposition welcomed.

 

Featured Image: Market Photo By [Miroslav Petrasko Link to Flickr]

I Am My Career

I patiently await the day when I feel utterly grateful that I’ve been prescribed some form of attention deficit medicine for over ten years. What began as a means of self-control in grade school quickly evolved into a necessity of life.

Society says I’m unable to fulfill my role in it without supplementary medication because my brain works a little different from the majority. I have far more trouble applying myself in certain situations than most of my peers. In fact, there are countless activities that will harness my concentration for hours on end without the help of any medicine. Unfortunately, the most gratifying activities for a person with ADD or ADHD are often deemed insignificant because they fail to comply with those of peers.

Big names like Adderall, Vyvance, and Ritalin are changing the way students learn forever. As a result, an alarming number of patients have, and will, develop a life long dependency on a stimulant.

Each year a growing number of students across the country are put on some form of attention deficit medication. Some truly suffer from the disorder and some do not. And sure, it improves concentration (even in the absence of a diagnosis), and literally grants the ability to do schoolwork in severe cases, but it also ignores the root of the problem.

Children today grow up in a world vastly different from that even of an older sibling. Generational differences are at an all time high; just look at the astounding growth in the approval rate of marijuana between the baby boomers and following generations. People themselves are changing and the world stands by, too stubborn to evolve.

We should reevaluate whether an induced dependence in children is the correct way to ensure success in the long run.

ADD medications have undoubtedly helped millions of children learn the basic building blocks required for civilized life. Almost every concept taught up to high school is considered somewhat essential to development. Thus, a supplement that enables an otherwise difficult concept to be grasped and understood, is priceless; and I’m in full support of utilizing medication for this reason.

What I don’t necessarily agree with is the use of the same medications for students beyond high school. A college student should not require a copious amount of stimulants to avoid failing at something.

Forget the millions of college students that abuse prescription stimulants on a daily basis and focus on the segment with a true deficiency.

The chance that any given student could continue down their respective path, at the same rate, without a supplemental drug, is likely low. It’s even less likely if a student’s been prescribed for the majority of his or her life.

Picture a student who’s spent the last ten years relying on a pill to make possible the work required of him each day at school. During this time, he’s gradually learned that his favorite activities, the most gratifying and rewarding hobbies, are entirely useless in adult (real) life. Worse yet, the most boring and uninteresting seem to be those mandatory for the rest of his life.

Like the student, everyday tasks to which I’m able to devote thought and energy, without medication, are my greatest passions; while those that I find particularly useless, or having no immediate value, are seemingly impossible when sober. I have no problem spending all day, everyday studying and learning about the subjects that naturally spark my interest.

It’s these fields that will prevent me from ever working a day in my life.

please add me to your facebook friends list Photo By [naive art https://www.flickr.com/photos/naive_art/7300973284/in/photolist-]

‘please add me to your facebook friends list’ Photo By [naive art https://www.flickr.com/photos/naive_art/7300973284/in/photolist-%5D

When a child, attention deficit disorder or not, enters adulthood without a strong tie between passion and career, the likelihood of that individual ever reaching a self-actualized state is slim. Self-actualization is often disregarded as it was largely considered a pretense by preceding generations.

For legitimate cases of attention deficit disorder the above concept is the key to a rewarding, fulfilling, and ultimately successful life. We are often taught to focus less on what interests us most and more on what interests us the least.

The only hope rests in the education system. Society won’t budge until the very core of people themselves change. Until that day, we’re stuck in a world where you’re forced to discover life’s other doors on your own. Society has provided for us a path and, should you choose not to follow down this path with the rest of humanity, face a world of difficulty.

Unless you’re one of the rare few who find absolute self-fulfillment in their field of study, true happiness lies outside the norm.

Leave the path you’ve prepared for since birth and you’re forced to decide what really matters to you. Gone are the support structures that provided you a reason for being and a sense of purpose. Take everything away, focus solely on yourself, and your true passions come to light. All too often we grow up relying too heavily on external structures for support rather than ourselves. Remove them and you may find that your life is rather dull or lacking.

It’s no doubt easier to take the road “more” traveled. The rest of the world agrees. But, find someone who diverged and pursued themselves… that’s when you learn what your life is about. That’s what I’m going to do. Create me, not my career. I am my career.

 

Featured Image: Adderall is the only way to study Photo By [Quinn Dombrowski Link to Flickr]

Making Cents of Ideas

One of my reasons for coming back was to share some of the ideas I come up with on a daily basis. I’ve been steadily filling the Notes app on my mac with every decent idea that comes to me. Maintaining a record of all my ideas is not only enjoyable, but essential to cultivating ideas in general. I’ve seen both the quality and frequency of new ideas increase since I started keeping a record.

Before I dive in, let me clarify what I mean by an idea. In most every context I use the word to mean a PLAN, rather than a CONCEPT or THOUGHT. While all three meanings are indeed similar, I tend to view them as having separate levels of complexity. In this sense the term is best suited for describing a goal, vision, or plan of action.

My ideas are essentially crude business plans that possess the potential for profit by attempting to capitalize on an opportunity in a new or original way.

The key word in the last sentence was ‘attempting.’ Welcome to the life of  my life as an entrepreneur. We all face the same grueling uncertainty day-in and day-out: “Is an idea worth the time, effort, and resources necessary to make it a reality?”

I consider myself an entrepreneur because hell, who doesn’t? It’s  THE go-to career choice for every unemployed, single man in the United States.

For a young entrepreneur like myself, the answer is found in the followup question: “Does it exist?” Determining whether a thought pre-existed elsewhere prior to its conception in one’s own mind is the most decisive test there is. A simple Google search is usually enough to kill even the best of them. Unfortunately, as I’ve yet to have an idea make it past this stage I have no further experience.

I’m no closer to the “big one” than an unborn child to its first steps. Fortunately, an awareness of the “big picture” ensures I remain grounded and focused on the task at hand. Better yet, I grasp that the success of an idea lies in its execution and far less in the idea itself.

Therefore I avoid investing too much into any one avenue of thought. I keep an open mind. I’m confident that an idea worth the risk will make quite an entrance when it finally arrives.

 

Featured Image: penny-wise Photo By [K.L. https://www.flickr.com/photos/kolix/2731237721/in/photolist-]

Simple Stress Relief

Last year I enrolled in a stress management class that ended up being one of the most rewarding college courses I’ve ever taken. The best part was that nearly everything we learned had a useful, real-world application. There’s no doubt that I experienced a reduction in overall stress during the semester itself, but most of the lessons quickly faded with the arrival of summer.

Three deep breaths.

That’s the secret. You just learned the easiest and most effective way to handle stress under ANY situation. A quick explanation:

Stress affects every human being on the Earth to some degree. The worst part is that 99% of modern stressors are social in nature and didn’t exist before the rise of civilization. Even more interesting is that despite our modern stress response being triggered differently from that of our ancestors (think running for life from a saber tooth cat vs. nervous for a job interview), the stress response itself has remained unchanged after 10,000 years.

That creates quite a problem. Ideally, the stress response activated by fleeing for your life should differ from the one triggered by an upcoming job interview. Since that’s not the case, you’re left with the emotional response of a life threatening situation while sitting in a waiting room. Further explanation is unnecessary as we’ve all experienced the sort of problems that result.

Luckily, taking three deep breaths is the most effective and immediate way to reduce stress and clear the mind. It works because the stress response causes the left side of the brain to take control and the right side to shut down. The left brain houses all the functions necessary for survival where the right brain controls creativity and rational thought.

And while the left brain is great at saving your life, it’s awful at creating an accurate perception of reality. It’s the side that lights up when you’re angry or thinking negative thoughts. For whatever reason, the left brain causes even the most outlandish scenarios to appear true in the heat of the moment. This is why it’s so easy to make assumptions when your mad at someone. Essentially, we would like to prevent our left brain from taking control during any situation in which our life is not in immediate danger.

Enough background. So how does three deep breaths do anything to combat the stress response?

First, these aren’t the same deep breaths you take for the doctor during a visit. There’s a bit of a technique to it, but nothing remotely difficult.

  1. Exhale completely. You want to ensure that your next breath will make use of your entire lung capacity.
  2. Inhale through the nose until you feel the upper chest expanding. Since you don’t normally inhale to this extent it should feel noticeably different from normal. 
  3. Hold it in for a second, literally just one. You should feel the sensation of being ‘full’ with air.
  4. Exhale through the mouth with a giant sigh. The goal is to evacuate the air from your lungs both rapidly and completely.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 two additional times.

*Note: It’s highly recommended that you stop this exercise promptly after three breaths. Additional breaths are shown to cause light-headedness and the practice is discouraged by medical professionals. Too much oxygen to the brain can potentially be dangerous. *


Each breath causes a change in the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels of the brain. When in equilibrium, the two gases are present at the perfect amount. (Remember, when stressed the left side is active and the right is shut down.) Performing a deep breath delivers a high dose of oxygen to the brain and raises the total oxygen content above the normal level. A subsequent decrease in carbon dioxide prompts the brain to shift back towards equilibrium (the brain wants to be in equilibrium). It just so happens that  when in equilibrium both sides of the brain are equally utilized. After three consecutive breaths the brain will return to near perfect equilibrium and both sides will again be active.

(Note that during the stress response the brain is unable to restore equilibrium on its own. This is why you must directly alter its chemical composition and force it to return to normal.)

At this point rational thought is restored and the ability to think clearly returns. The stressful situation should suddenly appear far less severe than it was just 60 seconds ago. You may recognize important facts that you previously ignored or even discover the perfect solution to a problem. The effects are immediate and quite noticeable.


If you haven’t already, try it now or the next time you feel yourself stressing out. If you’d rather not try it in public, perform the exercise tonight while lying in bed.

Featured Image: buddha Photo By [neonow https://www.flickr.com/photos/105427157@N08/14081592055/in/photolist-]