A mentor is someone who will provide their expertise and experiences to help guide you in your career when you face specific issues. Having someone in your corner helping you along your career path is a good idea and can be great support.
What's the role of a mentor?
A mentor is there to guide you and answer questions that you may have regarding your role as a new, young faculty member. Mentors can and should be considered part of your professional network.
How do you find and ask professionals to be your mentor?
Understand that mentors can come from many different areas; however, in general, you’ll find mentors usually fall into one of four categories:
• Professional mentors – people in your research discipline that can advise you;
• Local University mentors – people that are in your University, but are not necessarily in your research discipline;
• Departmental mentors – people that are your department colleagues you may work with; and
• Peer mentors – people that are at the same rank as you are that can provide advice.
3 ways to find a mentor
1) Much like building your professional network, be open-minded, and take every opportunity to meet and talk to other people.
2) Go to seminars, go to college get-togethers, even look around and meet people at your University orientation sessions when you start your job. As you meet and talk to people, be aware of the experiences they’ve had and how you interact with them. Are they easy to talk to? Do you get the sense they’d be willing to be supportive? If you can interact with a potential mentor easily, that will make your relationship easier.
3) Your new University may appoint mentors to you, or specifically, ask you to identify people who can be your mentors. In either case, these are additional opportunities for you to add to your mentoring network.
Once you’ve identified a potential mentor, ask them if they would have time to be your mentor. They will either say yes or no. If they say no, move on to the next person on your list.
3 tips on how to have a successful and productive mentor session
1) Your time with your mentor should not be viewed as a therapy session, time to cry, or complain. The mentoring relationship works, when it’s a win-win for both parties.
2) When you meet with your mentor, be respectful of their time. As such, make sure you have an agenda for your meeting – a listing of the concise topics you want to tackle. With these topics, also bring potential solutions with you; don’t expect your mentor to solve your problems. You are working to become a fully functional professional; believe me, figuring out the solutions to your issues on your own is a big key to being successful in academia, so be prepared with some possible solutions.
3) The mentor’s role is to help you figure out the advantages and disadvantages of the various possible solutions you’ve shared with them. In this way, you’ll learn appropriate solutions for what you’re dealing with and can use this information in the future (without having to tap your mentors’ expertise).
Remember, you should discuss issues with your mentor in a professional manner with your goal of bringing potential solutions for the professional problems you have and discussing those solutions with your mentor.
As you grow in your career, you will be glad that you took the time to develop your mentor relationships. In time, you may even have a young faculty member knocking on your door for your expertise!