Say This, Not That

My Daughter Needs A Mentor

Dear Ilana and Jess: My daughter Tracy is a college senior. While I’ll always be there for her, she’s branching out into the professional world, and the support she needs to do so seems out of my reach. How can I help her find a mentor who really understands what she needs to do next? - Ted

Dear Ted: First, kudos to you for knowing your limits and helping your daughter launch. You’ve got the right idea. When Tracy was at home, she might have relied on you or her siblings to navigate the teenage years. The transition to young adulthood brings new challenges, and the well of guidance from her existing pool may have run dry.

To begin the process of finding a mentor, we first have to define the word. A mentor is someone who is totally on her side, but totally objective, too. A mentor is someone who has walked the walk, gone through whatever challenges she’s facing, and has come out on top. So how do you get a mentor onboard? First, know who to look for. Tracy should be trying to find a mentor who is successful in her field of interest. Their experience is key to her experience. Second, know where to look. Mentors are all around Tracy at college; she just needs to know where to find them. A mentor can be a graduate or teaching assistant in a class she’s taking, or even the professor who teaches that class. Bosses and coworkers from jobs and internships can also make great mentors, if the job or internship is related to Tracy’s field of study. Mentors can also be found in the alumni network of your daughter’s school; alumni usually love to help students from their alma mater.

Tell Tracy to head to the Career and Academic Planning Center at her college. The advisors there may be able to set her up directly with a mentor on campus. They may even link her to formal alumni mentoring programs.

When meeting with a prospective mentor, Tracy should keep it conversational and skip the question: “Will you be my mentor?” Mentorship shouldn’t feel like an obligation; instead, it should be a symbiotic relationship, in which both parties can help each other. Tracy can ask a potential mentor out for a coffee or lunch to get to know them better.

Before heading into that meal, Tracy should do her research. She’ll want to get as much as she can out of that first meeting, and show her mentor that she means business. Advise Tracy to look up information about that individual, such as their past roles and experiences. Have her find a way to link their experience to hers, or connect it to her future plans.

Finally, leave that meeting with a plan. Before Tracy and her mentor part ways, Tracy should propose another time to meet, to continue their conversation. Tracy should do this after every meeting, until these meetings become routine. It allows the mentorship to grow organically and ensures that both parties stay in touch.

Say This: “Hi, (Professor.) I’ve really been enjoying your class and have read many of your publications. I am eager to pursue a career in this field, and I was wondering if you had time to meet for coffee. I’d love to pick your brain and to ask some questions about your experience.”

Not That: “Will you be my mentor?”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit:


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