Finding a Mentor – A Master’s Student Perspective

My perspective on finding an advisor may be slightly different than the rest of the Emissaries since I’m in a Master’s degree program. I did not select my advisor, however, she was pre-assigned to help guide me on the right track during my time at IU. Although my advisor selection process is different, I was still able to find the right mentor.

My field really stresses having a mentor during your time in student affairs. Before entering the HESA program, I did not have a mentor. It wasn’t until last year when I started to develop relationships with other faculty and staff through my job, school, and other activities. I think the best way to find a mentor is to use your resources and network. Networking is a great opportunity to meet other professionals in your field. I approached my mentor one day and asked if we could get coffee. Sometimes your mentors choose you, but in my case, I choose mine. There are people everywhere who are willing to help you out, but finding the right mentor can be challenging. There are a few different attributes I look for in a mentor.

First, I looked for a connection. Without being comfortable with your mentor, there is no way honest communication can exist for you to be able to ask the awkward, uncomfortable questions. Second, I looked for someone who had my best professional interests in mind and could provide sound career advice. I found it extremely helpful to bounce off different ideas about career possibilities and how to get where I want to be from my mentor. Lastly, I looked for someone who had enough professional experience in the field to be able to give me the right advice.

My mentor and I get together about once a month. We have developed a strong relationship over the last year and without her, I navigating my field would be much more difficult and confusing. Mentors are helpful in any area that you want to pursue, so if you have any additional questions about finding a mentor, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Faculty Mentor(s).

An honest approach to seeking out a faculty mentor is to consider the impact of having several faculty mentors. I am currently in the process of forming my dissertation committee and so I see how this can be applied in a practical manner. My advisor recently alluded to this in that accessing critical feedback and understanding its worth will enhance my training as a future faculty member. Keep in mind a critical key to developing into a well-rounded scholar and a professional is actively engaging in opportunities to form meaningful connections with your colleagues and faculty alike.

For a great follow-up and a little bit of inspiration you should check out the featured articles on the concept of having confidence in your individual abilities and their relation to accessing invaluable support in graduate school. Enjoy!

 

Article Source: http://sacnas.org/about/stories/sacnas-news

Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science

 


 

Possibly your second most important decision…

So, clearly, the biggest question in going to graduate school is: “how is it that Indiana University is the best fit — for me AND for everyone else?!?” Really, though, figuring out which university to attend may actually be the second most important question because knowing who you want to work with is arguably a bigger deal. Why?

Here’s how I think of it: first, your department is more important to your graduate training than your university. Second, in most cases your mentor will be more important to your training (and almost always more important for your career) than your department. So you want to take the time to make sure the stars are aligned for a smooth run…

Claire already offered three crucial considerations, so instead of rehashing them I’ll throw in a couple more with a handful of associated gut-check questions that are great to answer as early as you can:

4. Try to develop a clear understanding for what you need and expect in a mentor…

So what does this mean? I’d suggest you try to figure out whether you and your mentor have similar approaches to: (a) communication (e.g. do you both check email neurotically, sometimes, never?). Also, do you prefer//can you stomach direct communication (e.g. “this paper is far from your best effort// this paper was so bad my dog vomited repeatedly while I read it out loud”)? (b) forging a personal relationship (e.g. are you both invested in setting up a strictly professional relationship or would you like to share personal narratives with one another?) (c) are they “possessive” mentors? (i.e. do they want their students to only work with them? Or a few other, specific faculty?)

5. Try to make sure you and your would-be mentor share a vision about what kind of career you’d like and whether this is plausible:

So, in this regard I’d suggest you consider: (a) your career goals (e.g. academic/non-academic? R-1 or liberal arts college?); (b) their placement record (e.g. my mentor’s former students now serve tables// are the UN Secretary General?); (c) department politics (yeah, sorry, but this is a reality at most places: does your mentor work with everyone? If not, why? Is that okay with you?); (d) their training and your intellectual needs (e.g. do they hate stats and do you need stats?); (e) whether and how they support their students during their graduate careers (e.g. do they have access to grant money? Do they co-author with students? Write strong letters of rec?)

Of course, if you find that you and your mentor aren’t on the same page it isn’t the end of the world, not by any stretch… First, plenty of folks have good graduate experiences with subpar mentoring and, second, you can definitely find a replacement if your relationship becomes unworkable… That said, here’s hoping you and your mentor are a match made in (cream and crimson) heaven!