Are you ready to be a mentor?
Category : PROspective
The Epi Buddy program is seeking second-year students to help mentor incoming first years. After recently signing up to become an Epi Buddy I’ve been reflecting on how, as current students become accustomed to calling ourselves “Second-Years” we will also find ourselves taking on new roles. We’ll probably still be in need of a campus tour, but we’ll also be stepping into TA positions, offering advice to incoming first years, and taking on more responsibility in our jobs and other roles. A year older, and hopefully wiser, many of us will have the opportunity to transition from mentee to mentor. Signing up to be an Epi Buddy is one of many ways we can do this.
In the past Dr. Tim Lash and Dr. Jodie Guest have highlighted how beneficial it can be to find a good mentor in their articles “A Mentee’s Journey” and “The Boring History of EmoryEPI.” As graduate students, finding a mentor is often a priority. Whether it be for an APE, our thesis, or just someone to give us advice as we enter the public health field, we are constantly in search of guidance. Becoming a mentor ourselves is typically less prioritized, but we can learn just as much from this role as we can from being mentored. Having acted as a mentor myself in various positions, I cannot recommend taking the opportunity to mentor others enough. The skills and benefits you gain from the role are invaluable, and I’m excited to share a few of them with you here.
Improving Communication and Leadership
As a mentor, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice communication skills in a less formal setting than a job or academic position. Giving advice and sharing your own experiences with a mentee may boost your own comfort and confidence in leading a group project or providing more input at your job. Reinforcing your own knowledge and leadership skills can help you refine your thinking and approaches – a key step on the path to becoming a master on subjects you are already familiar with. You may also find yourself working harder to live up to your mentee’s expectations, pushing yourself to grow more than you otherwise would. Ultimately, having some accountability to someone else may be just what some of us need in order to reach our own full potential.
Expanding Your Network
We all know that having a mentor can often open doors to opportunities we may not otherwise know about or have access to. Truthfully, this can go both ways. Mentoring someone can introduce you to people you may never have interacted with normally. Broadening your network can help you not only professionally, but personally as well. Almost every new hobby or experience I’ve tried has been at the encouragement of someone outside my closest circle of friends, and I’m sure most would agree that getting into most jobs or programs often is influenced by who you know. That’s not to mention the fact that your mentee may be in a position to advocate for you in the future. I know that when I have the chance to help my former mentors I jump at the opportunity. That’s why building new connections through mentorship can be incredibly beneficial to the mentor.
There are few things that have caused me to reflect on my own experiences and behaviors as much as being a mentor has. Sharing wisdom with other people often makes me recognize when I don’t practice what I preach, forcing me to be more deliberate in my actions. Advising someone on how to approach certain issues also helps me look at my own problems from a new perspective or recognize how I could have handled similar difficulties differently in the past. We often don’t realize how much our own emotions and experiences cloud our judgement until we’re on the outside looking in. Mentoring others gives us the opportunity to do that.
How to be a mentor
We’ve given you so many reasons why you should be a mentor, you may be wondering how to become one. While there are plenty of ways to informally mentor friends, siblings, or coworkers, there are many ways you can more formally take on a mentor role at Emory. One way is signing up for the Epi Buddies program, where you can meet incoming first years, answer their questions, and give them the advice you wish you had gotten your first year. As a first-year epi buddy I got advice on which classes to take, who to reach out to for job opportunities, how to improve my CV and even study guides for Epi and Bios classes. If you’re as grateful to our recent graduates for these things as I am you can repay the kindness to the incoming class as an Epi Buddy. Another opportunity to be a mentor is through the Emory Pipeline Collaborative (EPiC), a program that students can participate in by mentoring undergrad and high school students interested in entering the health sector. As a Graduate mentor in EPiC this past year I got to reinforce many of the public health concepts we’ve learned by teaching them to my students, as well as give them the post-grad perspective I wished I could have gotten in High School.
Beyond gaining new skills and connections, mentoring can be a fulfilling way to give back. I have many mentors to thank for where I am today, which is why I try to pay it forward whenever I can. Whether it be to keep someone from making our past mistakes or passing on the good advice we’ve received, we can help those around us by practicing patience and empathy in whatever mentor roles we find ourselves in.
Are you ready to be a mentor?
To sign up to be an Epi Buddy click here! You can learn more about the program here or contact our Epi Reps, Sandra Amouzou (sandra [dot] amouzou [at] emory [dot] edu) and Katy Krupinsky (kathryn [dot] krupinsky [at] emory [dot] edu) with any questions.
You can also learn more about the Emory Pipeline Collaborative here!