Finding a Mentor During Graduate School
January 23, 2018
Graduate school can be a challenging endeavor, and having a mentor who is accessible, knowledgeable, and helpful can make all the difference. One of the things we hear a lot from clients is that their advisors have too many students and not enough time. Having at least one mentor can help enrich your graduate school experience and be valuable beyond measure.
What is a Mentor?
A mentor is a sort of guide, someone who can provide advice, feedback, and encouragement. In graduate school, they can help with feedback on writing, job searches, interview practice, questions about balancing school/life/work/family, and much, much, more. While your advisor might be officially assigned to you from the school or your department, a mentor can be unofficial, and are often self-selected. They don’t necessarily have to be in your department, or even at your school! Some people have long-distance mentors, while others work in close proximity with their mentors. A mentor can be a fellow student who is several years ahead of you, or they might be a professor: this can look different for each person, and there’s a lot of flexibility with this.
What are Some Benefits of Mentoring?
Aside from the emotional benefits of having someone invested in you and your success, there are other benefits, too. Academia can be an isolating place, and mentors can provide much-needed networking. A mentor can put their feelers out for journals looking for submissions, fellow colleagues looking for co-authors, or even job or internship opportunities. Your relationship with your mentor can also be a good model of a working professional relationship: talking about research, presenting your work, and more. Especially for students with a bit of social anxiety, this can be helpful practice. Through talking with your mentor about their own experiences, research, and work, you can also learn from someone who’s “been there, done that,” and apply the general themes of those experiences to your own practices.
How do I Find a Mentor?
Right now, there’s not an app for that, like Tinder for mentors, unfortunately! Talk to the people in your department. If there’s a professor whose work you admire, why not email them and let them know, and ask if they have time for an informational interview of sorts? (While keeping in mind, of course, that they likely have a full course load and advisees of their own). If you know graduate students ahead of you in the program, take them out for coffee and talk with them. Even in an unofficial capacity, they can be very helpful.
Sometimes, especially in the case of long-distance mentors, a mentorship is more organic, and simply happens over time – an email correspondence over time with someone you admire in your field, for example.
How did you find YOUR mentor(s)?
Here at Dissertation Editor, we realize that not everyone has the opportunity or good fortune to find a mentor. For those times when you need assistance with direction or research for your dissertation or thesis, our coaching services can be helpful. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more!