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.