Hello SOTGC community,
You may recall a time from your childhood when a certain someone in your life had a particularly special effect or impact on you; all you thought to yourself was “I want to be just like them when I grow up!” Now you are all grown up, but being the dynamic person that you are, you are still evolving every day. Whether it be a new career path you are embarking on, the beginning of an exciting and novel project at work, or the uncertainty that comes along with graduation and entering the “real world,” we can all use someone in our lives to look up to for advice, support, wisdom, and inspiration. What we all often need is a great mentor!
I can definitely attest to the power of mentorship firsthand from personal experience. As a medical student, I have been privileged, time and time again, with the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom, encouragement, and priceless advice that medical residents and staff physicians took the time to bestow on me while I worked with them. Many of these mentors have had a profound impact on my past successes as well as my ambitions moving on into the future.
I dedicate this post to exploring some factors that I feel are important to consider when choosing a great mentor. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I do hope it provides a starting point for some reflection when it comes to making a decision in choosing a mentor! Enjoy!
Factor #1: Choose someone who allows you to envision your future!
A mentor should not only be able to offer you advice in the present but also provide the necessary scaffolding and support to allow you to envision your future. Often, it is hard to envision the next phase of our lives when we are working so hard in the present moment. At times, it is also a matter of not knowing what to expect. If you are a graduate student completing your PhD it may be difficult to envision what life will be like, in a couple of years, as a professor teaching a class of 500. If you just started an entry-level job at a big company it may be hard to envision what it might be like to lead a team one day.
As a medical student, sometimes it is daunting to think past residency and envision what my day might be like as a practicing physician in a tertiary care center. A mentor is often someone who has already “been there, done that,” so to speak. The great thing about this is that they can really provide you with insight into what the next phase of life might be like for you based on what you envision that next phase to be. If they are in the same field as you they may in fact be already living that “next phase” and are thus in the perfect position to fill you in on what to expect, first hand!
Factor #2: Choose someone who allows you to foster meaning, fulfillment, and enjoyment through your work!
A mentor should ultimately be someone who gains meaning, fulfillment, and enjoyment from their work. When someone is passionate about what they do, they project inspiration and encouragement onto those that they work and interact with, including those whom they mentor. This is not to say that one should seek out a mentor who “sugarcoats” things, as it is often beneficial to be cognizant of both the positive and negative aspects of any given field or profession, but it is nevertheless important that the individuals you choose as mentors are balanced and happy in their own lives.
In the medical field we often stress the importance of ensuring personal health and wellbeing as a prerequisite to being able to help others. I think the same applies to mentorship; a mentor who approaches both successes and challenges in an equally healthy and balanced manner, and who gains fulfillment from the work they do, is in a better state to in turn offer you guidance.
Factor #3: Choose someone you feel a good connection with!
Mentorship is ultimately an interaction between two people; as with any interaction, in order to allow for the best possible outcome, it is important that the interpersonal dynamics are such that a positive environment is created. A mentor should be someone whom you feel comfortable opening up to. When it comes to discussing life challenges, ambitions, and uncertainties, you need someone who is a good listener and who offers you support in a nonjudgmental and healthy way. All this said, it is important to choose a mentor whom you work well with as this can make all the difference!
Plato once ingeniously stated “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” My dearest SOTGC readers … find someone who allows your inner unique genius to make itself known. Make mentorship a part of your life strategy and the world is yours!
My dearest SOTGC community, I hope this post has inspired you to seek a great mentor and make mentorship an important part of your life strategy! If this post resonated with you, share it with your friends, family, and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter! We’d also love to hear from you about your own positive experiences with mentorship as well as experiences that didn’t go as well as planned. What factors do you look for in a good mentor? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below! Enjoy!