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The Cardinal Rules of Finding a Mentor: Part One

Isn’t There an App for This?! Finding a Mentor in the Time of Tinder

From our first hand held on the playground and our braces-clanking first kiss, all the way to that potential walk down the aisle. Every tear-filled break-up, steamy night, or dating mishap in between. We spend an incredible amount of time finding that perfect mate. We embrace the struggles of dating and let’s face it, they become some of our best comedic material. Isn’t it interesting that such little air time goes to other types of relationships, such as finding a mentor? Even though these connections sometimes prove equally important for our lives or careers.

Successful mentoring relationships enable mentees to reach their full potential.  Consequently, they enrich mentors’ professional and personal lives, and foster a dynamic, vibrant academic community. Symbiotic and mutually beneficial, a good mentor/mentee match has the power to define one’s life purpose.  For instance, it can ignite a passion, or even change the course of history. What if finding a mentor was as easy as swiping left or right? What if we viewed seeking a mentor a little more like dating?  Perhaps approaching mentorship opportunities with the same bravery, high hopes, and sense of humor?

I would like to propose five cardinal rules of dating…I mean, ahem, finding a mentor in this article I’ll discuss the first two rules: be honest, and be fearless.

1. Be honest about who you are and who you hope to become

DoWhatYouLoveWhen we are dating we all know that we have to be upfront about our intentions or else we are jerks. Never feel guilty about which aspect of dermatology is most appealing to you. Whether you are most drawn to private practice, lab research, surgery, or teaching, your contribution will be most valuable to others when you remain true to yourself. Look around for a mentor who has a career or life that looks a little like the one you are beginning to imagine. Are you a free-thinking idealist with a flare for the dramatic (oh the power of introspection!)? Well, perhaps the detail-oriented mentor with a perfectly organized desk and the 6 a.m. meeting time suggestion is not the best fit for you.

There will be times where you are interested in finding a short-term mentor for a specific goal. For example, a three-month research elective, and other times you will want a long-term mentor to guide you in a chosen career path or work-life balance. Be upfront with potential mentors about the time commitment and level of involvement you are seeking.

2. Be fearless and put yourself out there.

Take advantage of the many mentorship opportunities available to you through your residency, organizations like Women’s Dermatological Society, and networking events. For instance, if your residency or organization has a list of clinical and research interests of faculty or physicians willing to precept projects, view these lists as the Tinder of the mentorship world. Use them! These faculty are ready for you to ask them on your first mentorship “date!” You know it’s okay to feel nervous before a first date, so don’t worry if you have some anxiety meeting a mentor early on. Most people are flattered when asked to be a mentor and truly enjoy the opportunity to give back to trainees. Your comfort level will grow as the relationship develops. Also, don’t shy away from long-distance mentors. With Skype meetings and IM chats, your selection of mentors need not be limited to your city.

In part 2 of this series, I’ll discuss the final three rules of mentorship:

  • being open-minded,
  • putting forth the effort,
  • and seizing the day.

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