What Is the Purpose of a Mentor?
A personal connection with someone more experienced can help you chart your career course and can ideally evolve into a career-long relationship. Mentors can guide you in selecting a specialty, diagnosing a tough medical case, or determining where to start your practice.
- Provide networking opportunities by introducing you to other professionals in the field
- Are passionate about their work and inspire the same enthusiasm within you
- Willingly share their knowledge and skills
- Have an impact on your professional and personal development
- Connect you with opportunities that you may not have known existed
- Challenge and encourage you to stretch beyond your boundaries
- Listen well and are supportive of new ideas
- Critique your work so that you may learn from your mistakes
- Compliment your work so that you may build confidence
- Act as a positive role model, leading by example
- Give advice and guidance, but allow you to choose the direction
- Dedicate time to the relationship because they are invested in your success
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How Do I Find a Mentor?
Mentors can be found in many ways. Some people actively seek out a relationship, while others find one naturally. You may find a mentor working on a challenging case, connect with one at a medical meeting, or get matched online through a registry such as the American Medical Student Association’s system or one of the American Society of Hematology’s award programs.
Mentoring relationships can vary in purpose, and you may find that you end up having more than one mentor throughout your career. If you have already chosen your medical specialty and are attempting to identify a mentor to work with, here are some questions that may help you identify whether or not the potential mentor can provide you with the right development opportunities:
- Are you a "hands on" mentor? If not, who would provide me with direct supervision and teaching in the laboratory or clinical research setting?
- How often would I meet with you and in what setting?
- How many other trainees work with you?
- Would I be able to have input and/or choose between a number of possible projects? Or would I be expected or allowed to come up with a proposed project independently?
- Have any fellows who have worked with you gone on to independent research careers, academic positions, industry, or practice settings?
- Have you had experience in helping mentees obtain grants?
- What types of peer-reviewed publications do you see arising from potential projects? Will there be opportunities to publish review articles or book chapters?
- Do you have assistant or other editorial status on peer-reviewed journals? (Such a mentor may be able to involve a trainee more integrally in the peer-review process, the benefits of which include good practice in the critical appraisal of research studies; recognition for a worthwhile form of scholarly volunteer work; and expansion of knowledge of the most current concepts.)
Young faculty may not have had fellows work with them before. Do not automatically exclude them from your search, but discuss with them the possibility of having a co-mentor who is a more senior person. Some institutions mandate that each trainee has a three-person research committee to provide a greater range of expertise and guidance for the trainee.
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How Can I Get the Most From the Mentor/Mentee Relationship?
Having the right mentor can have a tremendous effect on your development; however, to reap maximum benefits from the relationship, you must strive to exhibit the ideal qualities of a mentee. Your mentor is there to help you, so be sure to ask questions and listen carefully to your mentor’s feedback or advice. Be open to criticism from your mentor, accept it graciously, and be willing to learn from your mistakes. Do not be afraid of trying new things or testing new ideas. Above all, respect your mentor and show appreciation for your mentor’s time and dedication to your success.
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