Where do you get academic mentoring?

Your dissertation director.  Other graduate faculty.  Grad students who are further along than you.  Postdocs.

Your peers on the job market.  People you meet at conferences.

People who write you tenure letters (i.e., those you put on your list, after the letters are over).  Your dissertation director’s other students.

Go up to successful people at conferences, ask if they have a minute, introduce yourself, ask one focused question.  People one step ahead of you.  People who have switched careers.  People in different departments.

Listserves and mailing lists through your professional organizations.  Do they have a mentoring group?  Senior members of whatever professional/academic organizations you are part of.

Propose a symposium at a conference and ask senior people to be on it.  Now you have a connection.

A formal mentoring program on campus.  The campus faculty development center.  Other senior faculty you meet around campus; take them for coffee.  Try to form a writing group or grant development group.

The blogosphere!

Your former boss.  People your dissertation director or boss introduces you to.  Any retired faculty you can find.  The faculty ombudsperson.

Anywhere else?

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7 Responses to “Where do you get academic mentoring?”

  1. Dr. Dad, PhD Says:

    I’m probably not normal, but I also get advice from complete strangers, not all of whom are in the academy or into science. At the grocery store, my son’s soccer practice, at a random party I’m at. It’s not always a blatant call for advice so much as a constant yearning to learn from other people’s experiences – good or bad.

    So when they tell me their story, their triumphs or tribulations, I listen for what I can learn from them. And they end up unintentionally mentoring me….

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s… interesting. I hate talking to strangers and I hear more than enough about other people’s trouble. I particularly hate strangers at the grocery store trying to strike up conversation while I am trying to be focused on my task. But then again, that’s me.

  2. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    People one step ahead of you.

    This is a big deal. Those starting out tend to want to hear from those who have already reached the top.

    But the usefulness of their advice is limited for at least two reasons:

    (1) It has been a long time since they started out, and memories fade about how they succeeded back then.

    (2) It has been a long time since they started out, and times change; what worked back then may not be wise now.

  3. Rumpus Says:

    I would say just keep talking to people…some people are just better at mentoring than others, and often times a single mentor is not in the position to answer questions regarding all aspects of your situation.


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