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A Younger Chemists’ Guide to a Career Essential
IV. What is a mentor? V. Do I need a mentor? VI. How do I choose the right mentor for me? VII. Guidelines for a successful mentor/mentee relationship VIII. What, me, a mentor?
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What is a mentor?
Someone who “knows the ropes” and can help you figure them out, too Someone who can maintain confidentiality Someone who can help you in your career growth Someone who can help you gain certain skills Someone who helps from YOUR request, not someone who drags you along
What is a mentor NOT? A counselor • Your boss • Someone who plans your career for you •
II. Do I need a mentor?
YES!!! (Widening your network is never a bad thing) You probably already have an informal mentor. Is there someone who: • Helps show you how to get things done • You turn to for advice • You’d like to emulate, either in career path or in a specific skill (presentation style, leadership)
III. How do I choose the right mentor for me?
⇒ Depends on what you want from them (and you can have more than one mentor)
If you… Have a skill you want to improve (presentation, negotiation skills) Want to make sure your career is on track Want to make a job change and need more input Choose a mentor who… Is known to be adept at the trait you desire. Has broader experience than you and exhibits the kind of career path you might like or find interesting Has experience in different roles, perhaps in the one you're particularly interested in.
Some typical rules:
•Generally, your mentor is not your boss, manager, or otherwise directly over you in the organization. •Don’t be afraid to choose a mentor who is not exactly like you (race, age, gender….) •If the person you ask is too busy to fulfill the duties, ask them to recommend others who could help. •Choosing a mentor who is known as a top performer is never a bad idea!
IV. Guidelines for a successful mentoring experience
Ask the following questions: •How do I expect to benefit from this relationship? •How does my mentor expect to benefit from this relationship? •In what specific areas do I want guidance from my •mentor? •What are the key deliverables from this partnership? •Am I prepared to be responsible for initiating and maintaining contact (setting up meetings, proactively utilizing mentoring relationship)? Also: Set meeting expectations – how often, how long. Set a length of time to review how things are going Know when to end a mentor-mentee relationship.
A mentor is NOT a mind reader – think about what you want help with. The more prepared you are with your needs, the more productive your mentor relationship will be. Some points to ponder: •What is your ultimate picture of success? Is something hindering you from achieving it at the rate you’d like? •Document progress you’ve made toward achieving your goals to date as well as your future goals. •Jot down some long term and short term milestones.
V. What, me, a mentor?
All graduate students are expected to mentor their junior colleagues – the professional workplace is no different! A good leader helps their team members perform to their full potential – think about how you can coach, or mentor, your peers.
•A team member has a development need •That team member is motivated to improve •The performance issue is NOT related to lack of skills or abilities (i.e, the person has to be coachable).
How can I coach someone?
6. INQUIRE Ask questions about your team members’ abilities or their objectives. Ask open-ended (not yes/no) questions.
Examples: “How is your work on the new project going?” “When will you be presenting the results of your work?” “What do you find challenging in the new group?” Use the answers to get information, understand how the person feels about the situation, and show to them that you are interested.
2. CHECK IN Listen to what the person says – paraphrase as needed to show that you hear what they are saying.
Examples: “It sounds like you are on a tight timeline.” “I can see that you want to solve that last technical problem before presenting the work.” “It sounds like you’re a little frustrated with the degree of cooperation.” Use the answers to confirm your understanding of the situation, and to put your colleague at ease.
3. FEEDBACK (this is what you say in response) Offer suggestions or share experiences. It can be in the form of a question – to get your colleague to think about what they should do.
Examples: “How do you prioritize your work so the most critical elements get completed first?” “I recall that the students in Dr. X’s group deal with these kinds of studies. Have you asked their advice?” “Maybe they’re just busy. Have you tried scheduling a meeting rather than dropping by?” Use positive feedback to emphasize a job well done: “You really blew everyone away with your last report. Good job!”
•Think about who you’d like to emulate…and why •Use formal and informal mentors to expand your network (up). •Look for opportunities to mentor or coach those around you – good leadership is valued and appreciated.