A mentor is someone who shares both wisdom and knowledge. Most often a person that is more senior in a role or specific area of expertise. A mentor can be extremely valuable for advice, insight, and professional and personal development. The importance of having a good mentor cannot be overstated; but when and how do you find one (or a few)? I am often asked these questions by people at all stages of professional development, and the simple answer to “when” is now and “how” a bit more involved. Below are a few tips on “how” to find a mentor.
Many professional societies have mentorship networks/programs, such as the American Chemical Society. Societies exist for all aspects of scientific curiosity, from chemistry to biochemistry, pharmacology to toxicology, and everything in between. There are societies for different diseases and specific types of research. It is important for Ph.D. and postdoctoral scientists to join the professional society (or societies) relevant to their interest and take advantage of the resources that these organizations provide.
Most universities have strong alumni support and many include mentorship networks. Check with your undergraduate, masters, or Ph.D. University to see if one exists. If a program does not exist, at minimum the alumni office should be able to help connect you with people in your field for potential mentorship opportunities.
Many organizations like the Association for Women in Science – http://www.awis.org/ and Healthcare Women’s Business Association http://www.hbanet.org/ offer a yearly mentorship program for members within their regional chapters. I have been a mentor for the AWIS Boston chapter for the last three years and enjoy the opportunity to provide advice and guidance to recent undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral fellows, as well as junior industry professionals.
The International Center for Professional Development http://icpdprograms.org/, provides a wonderful mentorship program for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the biotech and medtech workforce, which includes Hispanic Americans, Pacific Islanders, African Americans and Native Americans. In addition to this program, the ICPD also has a Medtech mentorship program tailored for military veterans. Each of their programs pairs a mentee with an experienced industry professional who is extremely passionate about cultivating the next generation of life sciences leaders. Additionally, Sacnas http://sacnas.org/ is a wonderful resource for Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists.
A good mentor is can be an invaluable part of your personal and professional development plan. Mentorship can be structured in many ways such as through a formal program, like the ones mentioned above, or informally, through conversations with individuals who you happen to connect with during your course of networking. I look forward to receiving feedback on other ways people have connected with mentors.