Bleg (blog beg) on mentoring

Jul 22 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

I am facilitating (although that always makes me like a facility, or a large room, or perhaps a gym) a seminar thingie on mentoring for jr faculty. This is a bit different that what I normally do, as it is for another group outside my department &tc. So I don't/won't know any of the people, although it is supposed to be for about 10, so interaction will be high.

Any suggestions? I've got some standby organizing bits, about kinds of mentors, what mentors do etc. But, before I launch into it, I'd like to hear other thoughts. I'm totally open to major restructuring of this.


6 responses so far

  • Dr Becca says:

    I wish we had something like that at my Uni. Mentoring grad students and postdocs has been one of the most challenging things about this job. It is nothing like the "mentoring" you do as a grad student/post-doc when you're handed an undergrad assistant or whatever. This is full time, and these are people's careers you're in charge of. Everyone is different, and you have to delicately navigate each person's strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities, knowing when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, etc. It takes a lot of intuition about the human condition, and it is HARD.

  • Is this for people who want to mentor or who want to be mentored?

    If it's the former, I think it's important for them to explore mentoring as
    helping someone else make their own good decisions rather than telling them what to do,
    passing them opportunities like paper and grant reviews and talks - I used to do get a mentee to do the review and then read the review myself and send it back to the agency or journal telling them what I'd done so they might go direct to the mentee next time.
    engineering opportunities for them, sharing your network with them by introducing them to senior people at meetings
    helping them to be ambitious

    If it's the latter I think it's about having the courage to ask people to mentor you, recognising that you may need several mentors, recognising whether a mentor is all-round good, some good or no good and acting accordingly
    recognising that a good mentor actually gets a lot out of mentoring and they shouldn't be shy

  • iGrrrl says:

    One thing about mentoring, and being mentored, is that the relationship needs to change over time. Early grad students need a lot more and different attention than they do when they are close to graduating. Similarly post-docs have different mentoring needs even over the few years they might be in a lab. One of the things we advise K applicants is to have the conversation with the mentor up front about that later, transition-to-independence stage.

    Both the mentor and the person mentored need to be aware of the need for the relationship to evolve as the trainee advances.

  • GMP says:

    I recently talked to a young woman, who is a soon-to-be assistant professor at another institution and a soon-to-no-longer-be a postdoc of my close collaborator, so I know her and her work fairly well. I can tell you of the things she asked me:

    1) The woman in science questions (these were not the only ones, they were interspersed with other questions, but I might well get over with them).

    2) Selling yourself/your work. She is technically brilliant and very creative, but hardly a used-car salesman, which her advisor keeps telling her she needs to change. I kept insisting that as someone who spent a lot of time trying to be who she wasn't, authenticity is key as it's necessary if you want to keep your sanity

    3) How often to travel and where to? Which conferences? With whom to schmooze? How to balance the need to travel with family or just a distaste for travel? is it OK to invite big names over (yes! since they are unlikely to invite you over to their places and they might be letter writers)

    4) How to deal with rejection (proposals, papers)? Internal and external tips?

    5) Realizing what the true timescales are (e.g. for tenure in year 6 at an R1, that really means your pubs should be submitted no later than year 4.5 so they are out by 5 and t he letter writers have a chance to see them and appreciate them)

    6) For fields where more than one funding agency may be relevant, hitting various young investigator programs and strategies for each

    7) Collaborations, how often, what percentage of them work out (very few work out long-term, and it's normal for them to not work out. Both parties have to be invested and have similar tempos and interests, with complementary expertise)

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