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New Practitioners Network
Mentors Matter: Finding the Match to Make the Right Move
by Dalila Masic, PharmD PGY2 Critical Care Resident Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, IL; Samantha Siepak, PharmD Candidate 2020 Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy Downers Grove, IL; Megan Park Corsi, PharmD, MBA, DPLA Clinical Research Pharmacist The University of Chicago Medicine Chicago, IL
Creating a mentor-mentee relationship is a vital aspect of career development for students, residents, and experienced practitioners. Mentors are resources to point you in the right direction and to share in the excitement of your accomplishments. Additional benefits of a mentor include access to insider tips about your career field, insight into what has or has not worked for them, and connections to people that may benefit your future goals. Finding the right mentor takes time, attention, and effort to seek out the right intentional influence. Your mentor-mentee relationship should be with someone that you “click” with and who has your best interest at heart.
Finding a mentor may be a formal arrangement, an informal arrangement, or somewhere in between. A formal arrangement is usually more structured, with regular meetings and reviews of the mentee's progress. An informal arrangement may consist of a loose time frame for casual meetings, often per request of the mentee for each encounter. Regardless of an informal or formal arrangement, the mentor-mentee relationship is most effective when it is based on trust and open communication.
An ideal mentor is eager to share knowledge, provide honest feedback, and has time to foster the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentors get involved because they genuinely want to have a sincere interest in seeing their mentees succeed. It is important to differentiate between mentor and sponsor relationships. A sponsor is someone who advocates for you in their professional network. They connect you to opportunities that will advance your career and recommend you to others. It may feel as though a sponsor is working for you, in a sense, to get your name out there. Mentors serve as a sounding board, a support system, and provide insight into your developing goals and career path to assist in making decisions that will lead you to success. In short, mentors use their experience to teach you and offer their support to get you to where you want to be.
A mentor should embody the professional characteristics that you are working to achieve. However, you must first establish a clear understanding of what you are seeking from the mentor. Once you identify your motives, search for inspirational leaders around you and try to find a common a philosophy, passion, or project. A genuine shared connection will allow you to speak authentically about why you would like to establish a mentor-mentee relationship. This will help your potential mentor understand how you could engage in a mutually beneficial partnership. There are four key qualities to look for in a mentor: compatibility, contrast, expertise, and trust. Since a mentor is someone with whom you will be working closely, an essential element to a thriving relationship includes compatibility among personalities. If compatibility does not exist, the relationship may feel forced. Next, a mentor helps you step outside of your comfort zone and provides perspective. Having someone share how to look at things differently helps you gain clarity. Additionally, you want a mentor with enough experience to help you navigate through any challenge you may face, but that does not always mean someone with the most career experience. Expertise can take many forms and seeking a mentor with the expertise relevant to your success is advised. Finally, seek out a mentor who will challenge you to improve, is not afraid to ask tough questions, and will provide both positive and constructive feedback.
When reaching out to a person to request mentorship, it is important to prepare your thoughts. Articulate the challenge or opportunity you are facing and why you think he/she is the person who can help you. Then, identify something that you would like to learn or get perspective from the potential mentor by asking for a first meeting. After the meeting, ask if the mentor would be open to a similar meeting in the future and set a date. It will be surprising how quickly the relationship is able to develop. Mentors appreciate relationships that are worth the investment for which they are also receiving the benefit of knowing they are helping someone to achieve their goals.
Find a mentor that you trust and who genuinely wants to help you succeed. Honestly communicate your needs, wants, goals, and any plans that you already have in place. Do not be afraid when your mentor challenges you or puts you in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable place and recognize you will grow immensely when leaning into this discomfort. Your mentor wants you to step out of your comfort zone so that you can prove yourself, your abilities, and develop your confidence. ■