In my previous post I shared my insight on the different types of mentors and how they have helped me on my journey as a woman in science. No matter what stage you are in your career you can benefit from having a mentor and being a mentor.
Just like many relationships; I have found the best mentors when I was not looking. I was at the right place at the right time. I remember one particular story of finding a mentor. I was at a National Society of Black Engineers Convention and I attended a GEM Consortium Workshop: “Why you should go to graduate school?” I was so impressed, inspired and motivated after the workshop and I realized I found my mentor (the presenter). After the workshop was over I introduced myself and asked him to be my mentor and he said yes. He gave me great advice and the top two takeaway messages I learned were: Remember what you came for and this (insert hardship/challenge you are facing) could be a blessing in disguise.
If you find yourself in a similar situation or find someone who would be a great mentor ask them for advice. People love giving advice. In my experiences, most people said yes. The people who said no were people who were super busy or I learned that they were not a good match for me. How did you find your mentor?
- University/Companies/Professional Organizations:
Many of my peers and colleagues have shared their mentoring stories and most of them found their mentors at school, work or professional organizations. The great thing about finding a mentor this way is that you are already in an atmosphere of like-minded individuals. Just like you are looking for a mentor some mentors are looking for mentees. You never know who is watching you.
Before you email or meet with potential mentors research the person to learn more about their background. While researching have your myIDP tool handy so you can update it if needed. Also, make a list of potential mentors that you want to email/meet (no more than four or people to start).
- Look in your social circle:
Go through your contact list. You will be surprised to see what people could be potential mentors. Many times when you look in your social circle you will find people who have shared career interests. In addition, they can give you advice on alternative pathways or may know someone in their network that can help you. After looking in your social circle set up a time to talk about your career goals.
- Look at your social media:
We are in a digital age. We have LinkedIn, Research Gate, Twitter, WordPress and many more social media outlets. Social media is everywhere which means that you have a higher chance of finding potential mentors. Why do you think I started blogging? Blogging is a way I can express myself and help other women in STEM. The good thing about social media is that you can to talk people from around the world. I have talked to women in STEM that have given me great career advice and insight on things I never really thought about.
- Informational Interviews:
So far my informational interviews have been well worth it. The good thing about informational interviews is that it will encourage you to push yourself and put yourself out there. At first this was hard for me. The thing that helped me shake that nervousness was to just go for it and realize I had to get out of my comfort zone. The worse the person could say was no.
I highly recommend going on informational interviews if you want to gain knowledge about a career or find a potential mentor. You never know what opportunities you will find.
- Mentoring Programs:
Another way to find a mentor is through mentoring programs. Many universities, companies and professional organizations have mentoring programs. The only thing about these type of programs is that mentoring spots are limited.
When I was in college I participated in the Minority Undergraduate Research Experience (MURE) at Penn STate and I was able to get matched with a mentor and do research in a laboratory. This was a rewarding experience and I was excited to get my hands dirty and be one step closer to becoming a scientist.
Mentoring is an important part of my life and I thank all my mentors who helped make me the scientist that I am today.
Good luck finding a mentor!
My Top Mentee Tips:
Over the years I have been a mentor and have been a mentee. Here are my top mentee tips:
- Establish the goals of the mentoring relationship.
- Come on time to meetings or phone calls. If you have to cancel let your mentor know as soon as possible.
- Be prepared to take notes and have questions ready when you meet your mentor.
- Bring your myIDP tool to your meetings.
- Keep your mentor up-to-date with your progress.
- Always be sincere and thank your mentor for their help.
- Pass the knowledge your mentor gave you to help someone and be a mentor.
- Keep in touch.
Where did you find your mentor? What is your best advice to gain the most out of a mentoring relationship? Share below.