A mentor is more than an adviser. A mentor provides you with wisdom, technical knowledge, assistance, support, empathy and respect throughout, and often beyond, your graduate career. Mentoring helps students understand how their ambitions fit into graduate education, department life and career choices.
An effective mentoring relationship develops over time. The student benefits from the mentor’s support, skills, wisdom and coaching. Later, both people deepen their working relationship, perhaps collaborating on projects in which the student develops into a junior colleague.
After a while, the mentee may need some separation from the mentor to test his or her own ideas. This distancing is a sign that the mentoring relationship is maturing and providing the mentee with the skills needed to function independently. Finally, both mentee and mentor may redefine their relationship as one of equals, characterized over time by informal contact and mutual assistance, thus becoming true professional colleagues.
Benefits of mentoring
As an undergraduate, your objective was to obtain knowledge; in graduate school your objective is to contribute knowledge to a field of study and begin to function as a member of a profession. Even though you may be passionate about a particular subject, your ultimate goal for pursuing an advanced degree may still be evolving. This is an opportunity for your mentors to assist you with that evolution.
Studies indicate that graduate students who receive effective mentoring demonstrate greater
- productivity in research activity, conference presentations, pre-doctoral publications, instructional development and grant writing
- academic success in persisting in graduate school, achieving shorter time to degree and performing better in academic coursework
- professional success with greater chances of securing a tenure-track position if seeking employment in academe, or greater career advancement potential if seeking leadership positions in administration or sectors outside the University.
Mentoring enables graduate students to
- acquire a body of knowledge and skills
- learn techniques for collaborating and networking
- gain perspective on how a discipline operates academically, socially, and politically
- develop a sense of scholarly citizenship by grasping their role in a larger educational enterprise
- deal more confidently with the challenges of intellectual work.
Mentoring enables faculty members to
- engage the curiosities and energies of fresh minds
- keep abreast of new research questions, knowledge, paradigms, and techniques
- cultivate collaborators for current or future projects
- identify and train graduate assistants whose work is critical to the completion of a research project or successful course offering
- prepare the next generation of intellectual leaders in the disciplines and in society
- enjoy the personal and professional satisfaction inherent in mentoring relationships.