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Choosing a Mentor

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Every graduate students hopes for a mentor who will guide them through graduate school. Ideally your advisor will become your mentor, but that is not always the case. How do you choose a mentor? What characteristics should you look for?

A mentor should:

  • provide you with support and encouragement
  • help you to learn from your mistakes
  • offer opportunities for collaboration, joint presentations, and departmental talks
  • help you to learn about writing and submitting manuscripts for publication
  • be interested in your career area
  • be able to provide support and training in your area
  • model a successful academic career and training in your area
  • be committed to help mentees make the next move in their career development
  • demonstrate personal integrity
  • introduce you to colleagues
  • help you to identify and work with your strengths and weaknesses
  • provide opportunities for you to develop independence
Mentoring relationships develop over time. Most of us have several mentors over the course of our careers: mentors for different areas (e.g., teaching and research) and at different times in our professional development (e.g., grad student, post-doc, junior faculty).

Someday you will also become a mentor. Perhaps you already are a mentor to a beginning grad student. Consider the role that you might play in someone else’s professional development.

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