Seeking a Mentor

“A good mentor should care enough to be honest about situations and help you arrive at plans of action that will promote your career and educational goals.”

Gayle Slaughter, author of Beyond the Beakers: SMART Advice for Entering Graduate Programs in Sciences and Engineering (2006)

What type of mentor(s) do you seek?

  • General mentor – someone who can provide you with direction and information about courses, graduate school, career-related decisions and personal advice perhaps regarding life in general
  • Professional advisor – someone you go to particularly for research and career development advice
  • Research mentor(s) – someone who guides and supervises your work as a researcher
  • Thesis advisor – someone who provides research opportunities and guides you through the writing process
  • Peer mentor – someone who may have similar characteristics as you (e.g., age, research interests, major), can relate to your experiences and can provide a general mentor relationship

Some reasons for seeking a mentor:

  • Intellectual support – you need help with problem-solving or identifying next steps in your research
  • Personal/Emotional support – you look for encouragement, friendly advice, and access to information
  • Professional socialization – you want to learn about your discipline (e.g., knowledge and skills) and the values and norms of the profession

Some ways to connect with potential mentors

  • Get involved in student organizations
  • Initiate discussions with faculty members
  • Participate in networking events
  • Follow their work and learn about the person’s career
  • Sign up for job shadowing
  • Volunteer at events that matter to you
  • Talk to advisors/professors who may help you get connected
  • Check out mentoring programs that exist

Keep in mind that no one person will meet your mentoring needs. You may benefit from multiple mentors of diverse talents, ages, and personalities.