How to Find a Mentor
Category : PROspective
Whether you’re mentoring someone yourself or have found someone to mentor you, there is so much to gain from the mentor-mentee relationship. In the past, we’ve talked about the benefits of mentoring others, and experiences with being a mentee. But oftentimes it can be difficult to find a mentor. In an ideal world finding a mentor is effortless—your professor takes you under their wing and gives you advice and recommendations, or your boss at work takes the time to really invest in your professional development. Unfortunately, this isn’t always how it plays out in real life, especially if, like me, you’re a little less outgoing. Finding a mentor isn’t only a requirement to complete your thesis. Having someone to pose professional questions to or help you get your foot in the door with certain jobs or activities can sometimes make or break how our lives and careers play out. Here are some of the steps you can take to aid in your search for a mentor:
- Figure out what your goals are. If you’re looking for someone to guide you into the world of biostatistics, having a mentor in the global health department might not be what you need. Getting different perspectives can be beneficial, but its up to you to decide what works for you. You’ll never find the mentor you need if you don’t know what that is. Get clear on what your personal and professional goals are, so you can articulate this to others and identify people who can help you get to where you want to be. Beyond setting professional goals, however, you also need to decide the type of mentoring relationship you want.
- Find the people who can help. Whether it actually is your boss or professor, or it’s someone you’ve never met, the first step is to identify who has the skills and experience to mentor you in the way you want.
- Find the people who want to help. Just because you’ve found the perfect person to mentor you, doesn’t mean they have the time or energy to do so. If they aren’t responsive to your interest in connecting, it might be best to move on to someone who reciprocates your energy. The best mentor is a present one.
- Reach out and establish a relationship. Try sending an email explaining who you are, why you’re interested in connecting with them (their research, career background, similar personal backgrounds), and asking if they would be open to a short meeting with you to ask them questions. Make sure you come prepared to this meeting with a handful of questions to keep the conversation going. Check out this article on informational interviewing if you need a refresher on how to do that. After the meeting send a follow-up message thanking them for their time and asking if they would be open to meetings in the future for you to continue to ask them for advice or questions.
- Be respectful and responsive. Keep in mind that your mentor has their own life and career. Respect their boundaries. Also do what you can to make mentoring you as easy as possible. Respond to them promptly and keep them in the loop about your life. Make sure to let them know you value their ideas and express gratitude for the time and energy they put into mentoring you. This will help you continue the relationship into the future. Ensuring they feel appreciated will also encourage them to continue helping you whenever they can.
Remember, you deserve a good mentor as much as your mentor deserves a good mentee. Find the people who care about and respect you and do the same for them. Our mentors will likely change throughout our lives and careers, so knowing how to build these connections will be useful both here at Rollins and decades into the future.
This post was originally published on March 27, 2022.