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Teaching Tips

How to Find a Mentor


Mentoring is an important element of academic success. Among medical school faculty, mentoring is associated with improved confidence in academic roles and skills[i] and higher likelihood of promotion. [ii]Strong mentoring relationships are positively associated with career satisfaction, promotion, research grants, publications and other measures of academic productivity.[iii] Junior faculty especially, those who have mentors are more confident, enthusiastic and successful in their jobs.[iv]

  1.  Begin by identifying what you need and want from your mentor. You may need assistance with a project or research proposal, your teaching or clinical skills, general career guidance, work-life balance, managing conflicts or leadership training, among others. To identify a mentor, you need to be aware of your needs and goals first and seek people who might be able to help you attain them. Observe senior faculty members in laboratory, clinical, classroom and conference settings—even during meetings. Select someone whose interests and goals match your own Look for someone who is a role model for the kind of academic physician, teacher, scientist or administrative leader that you want to become. Keep in mind, most of us will need more than one mentor in order to meet all of our career goals.
  2. Look for mentors inside and outside your department or division. Getting input from someone who understands your department and its goals, and who can advocate for you, may be vital to your success. At the same time, an external mentor—whether outside your department or even outside your institution—can provide a fresh and valuable perspective. Attend talks, research presentations, meetings or other opportunities that allow you to meet people with similar interests. You’ll be surprised at how flattered people are that you care about their work or interests.
  3. Look for mentors with the 3 Cs- Competence, Confidence and Commitment.

    ·         Competence: Effective mentors have professional knowledge and experience in the field or area of your interest. They have generally achieved what you are hoping to accomplish. They are respected and use excellent interpersonal and communication skills with you and others. 

    ·         Confidence: Effective mentors are confident in themselves and what they have achieved. They share contacts and connections. They share credit and give resources if they have them. They allow you to develop your own skills and path and are happy in your personal successes.

    ·         Commitment: Good mentors are committed to your success. They help you and also challenge you. They are available when needed and step back when they are not, but they are there for you.​

  4. Look for someone who is a good “fit.” You are developing a relationship with your mentor, one that will hopefully last for many years. Treat it as such. Is this someone who you can get along with? Is this a person who has similar work habits and patterns, or will your last minute emails drive him crazy? Do you only communicate via email, and she loves the phone? Get to know your prospective mentor a bit before you dive in.

Once you have a mentor, there are some pitfalls that may arise. Read this short article for more tips on how to make your mentoring relationship work: http://www.jgme.org/doi/abs/10.4300/JGME-D-11-00304.1

For additional mentoring tips, and an outline of your responsibilities as a good mentee, also refer toBeyond Every Great Star:  A Mentoring Guide for School of Medicine Faculty Members and Administrators at http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/medicalschool/facultyAffairs/Documents/MentoringGuide.pdf.

[i] Wingard, Acad Med 2004; 79(10 suppl): S9-11

[ii] Wise, dJ Obstet Gyn Can 2004: 26: 127-136

[iii] Sambunjak, JAMA 2006; 296:1103-1115

[iv] Behind every great star:  A mentoring guide for School of Medicine faculty and administrators.http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/medicalschool/facultyAffairs/Documents/MentoringGuide.pdf