I’ve had many questions asked of me in this realm and I notice that premedical students, and all of us in the medical field tend to discount the importance of mentorship. So, what is a mentor? A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor, according to dictionary.com. A mentee is one who needs guidance and help from the said mentor. In my opinion, many times this relationship is one sided. Either the mentee finds themselves in a one way conversation with someone extraordinarily busy, or believe it or not, the mentor keeps reaching out, only to get an , “I’m busy” response from the student. To avoid these mismatches, I recommend the following :
1. Find mentors however you can, through premedical societies, student medical associations such as Student National Medical Association, Latino Medical Student Association, American Medical Association and American Women’s Medical Association, or through friends, your personal physician or physicians you connect with virtually. Remember, a mentor doesn’t have to be in person to make an impact.
2. Make contact with your mentor via email, sending a message through a text or phone call ONLY with their permission, and be prepared to discuss your needs.
– How can they help you best?
– What are your needs? What phase are you in your journey?
– If premed or for any phase, be prepared to share information regarding grades, scores, school attended, motivation for medicine and how they can be of assistance.
-If you are looking for help, be sincere and professional. If someone cannot help, or seems disinterested, maybe it’s not the best fit.
– Be PROMPT with all communications and meetings. DO NOT make the person chase you! You need their help….
-If you are establishing a research mentorship relationship, or anything that is project related, such as writing a paper, PLEASE only commit to what you can complete. Stay in frequent communication with your mentor and give updates! Be honest and professional as to what you can accomplish and in what time frame. Treat it as an employed job.
3. Don’t be afraid to communicate expectations and to articulate these early.
-Would you like to meet them in person? Shadow? Have an online based mentorship? Articulate these preferences and listen to what they say they can provide.
4. Be PERSISTENT.
Nothing comes without hard work. Nothing. Don’t act entitled to someone’s hard earned time. They are bending over backwards to help, so you be the catalyst to keep lines of communication open. Email periodically. Send update notices and come prepared to any meetings with questions prepared.
If you start your mentorship relationship with these things in mind, you will be on your way to gaining allies and colleagues along the way that can help you down the line. The medical community is small, and you never know who can be the key to your next step!
Till next time,
Candice Williams, MD