Finding The Right Mentor

Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to find someone you can really feel comfortable with as you navigate your academic life. However, when you do find this person, consider your blessing and do all you can to maintain a healthy relationship. You may not realize the importance of a good mentor when you start your program, but you surely will understand their role when you begin your dissertation, need to search for funding, jobs, and other opportunities. I personally don’t believe a mentor is someone to be “used,” I believe you should connect with your mentor when things are going well, not so well and when you don’t have a clue how things are going. You get my point.

I am fortunate to have good mentors.  My undergraduate mentor, among several other things, helped me find the right school to pursue my master’s degree. He had a lot of knowledge about universities in the US and provided me with great resources. I narrowed  my choice to one school (risky…I know) and was accepted a week after my phone interview! I was so excited and scared. I kept in touch with my mentor during the first year of my master’s degree until life circumstances caused us to disconnect.  During this time, I formed a mentoring relationship with the director of my master’s program.  He helped me navigate academic life and became someone I consulted with when I began working.  He was the first person I told about my interest in pursuing a Ph.D. and was kind enough to help me find the right school.  We still keep in touch via email and I consider him to still be a role model, mentor and now a friend.

When I enrolled in this Ph.D program, it took me about a semester to figure out which professor I wanted to mentor me.  That lead to three professors with different strengths and skills.  One professor helps me develop my research identity. The second professor provides good mentoring regarding professional identity. The third professor is the one that demonstrates the beauty of balance and the importance of mindfulness in all I do. You may be thinking “do you really need a mentor for that?” Ummm, yes! Trust me.

The best thing about having these mentors is that they all agreed to be part of my dissertation committee. Yay!

I am sharing a couple points from my mentor search throughout the years.  I would love to hear about your mentor search!

  • Know what you want. It’s like the idea of “if you don’t know where you’re going any road can take you” type of thing. For example, I knew I needed a mentor during my master’s degree to help me with my identity as a clinician. I wanted a role model who was good at CBT and could teach me the process. Done. I still keep in touch to process several things because my brain works  CBT-ish and so does his!
  • If you don’t know what you want that’s okay. One role of a mentor should be to help you filter all the information you receive so you can decide what your interests are. I mean, it is not helpful to have a mentor who does not know what they want in life. It doesn’t work that way, or at least I really hope it doesn’t work that way! My research mentor taught me about different methodologies outside of my statistics courses.
  • Know their personality. Okay, my personal opinion is that I need someone who I feel connected with. Someone I can share jokes and still get down to business with. You may be very enthusiastic and want a mentor with as much energy as you to keep your adrenaline going, and that’s okay. You may be very enthusiastic and constantly on the go and may want a mentor to help you be more mindful and relaxed, and that’s okay too.  The point is, you should find someone that you can get along with.
  • Find someone to provide support. We may have one time, or one day when we really just need someone to listen, to let us know it’s okay to have the feelings we experience. Finding a mentor to be supportive in good times and in the rotten times is crucial.
  • Be able to learn from this person. I need (and luckily I have) a mentor I can learn new things from. A mentor should be able to teach and inspire and help you discover new opportunities.

 

“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their
own.” {Nikos Kazantzakis}

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