Getting a Mentor PDF Print E-mail


How to Get a Mentor and Real-Time Experience for the Very First Time

A great mentor is one of the most important assets any achiever can have. As achievers, we must maintain the mentality of clay. If we think back to when Play-Dough was in its prime, we can remember that it wasn’t too appealing when initially pulled out of its canister. We had to mold it. So what good are ambitious undergraduates without cultivation and grooming?

Every great mentor understands that their job is to “Picasso” young minds, and then unveil their masterpieces. Mentors should do this one thing very well: Elevate. Fortunate beneficiaries (undergrads in this case) heighten their skills and desires in multiple aspects. Whether it’s guidance about research methodology, professional speaking skills, or career advice, students with great mentors have it made. However, psychologists have different styles of mentoring and diverse concepts of what kind of help is important.

Some mentors use more of a trainee approach where students shadow the mentor and work very closely under them. Others grant students more freedom to decide what they’d like to study and just check up on them periodically. No mentoring style is considered to be the best. It is up to students to decide what mentoring style more suitably fits their needs without being picky and burning bridges. Students must simply recognize differences in personality and not mistake style for authoritarian or neglectful relationships. This single misconception may lead to an unproductive partnership and result in the loss of time and energy for both parties.

There are a couple of steps undergraduates can take towards finding an appropriate mentor. The first step is to understand what each involved party should provide. Mentors provide undergraduates with direction and opportunities for further advancement towards professional independence. Undergraduates should illustrate eagerness, obedience, tenacity and improvement. A mentee’s job is to listen and follow directions towards the transition towards their professional independence. Undergraduates can serve as mentees in several different capacities. As research assistants, undergraduates typically enter data collected during their mentor’s research projects. As interns, mentees can work under their mentors and assist them with assignments. The complexity involved in these assignments should progress with the experience of the mentee. On a more fundamental level, a mentor can simply be there to engage in dialogue with a student, advise them on professional endeavors, or provide feedback on the student’s work.

The second step is for the student to internalize this statement: “I am not the boss. I am here to learn from my mentor’s expertise.” Surprisingly, statement may solve many problems. As gifted, driven undergraduates, students sometimes allow their ids to determine their outlook on relationships with their mentors. Instead, understand that your undergraduate degree (for the most part) insinuates that you posses the discipline to follow directions and to grasp fundamental concepts. Of course, there will be time for independent study and advanced opportunity. But these prospects are more virtuous when undergraduates have internalized this statement. Remember that nobody’s perfect, and good psychologists are normally busy people. Have internalized the concept of listening and following directions can actually accelerate a mentee’s progress on his/her professional path.

The third step is to keep both ears to the streets. In other words, find out what type of reputations the various psychology professionals have as mentors. Graduates and fellow undergraduates should be willing to share this information (especially if the prospective mentor is a good one). It also wouldn’t hurt to ask about mentoring style. Also see what the prospective mentor’s current students are producing and ask what they have learned. This information can provide a glimpse of what may be to come and allow the potential mentee to make an informed decision.

The last step is to pursue the desired partnership with true effort. When undergraduates understand what a mentor is, they are able to articulate to their prospective mentor how important this opportunity is to their future. When undergraduates understand that they are pursuing a priceless learning opportunity, they are ready to be taught. When undergraduates have “done their homework” on the prospective mentor, they have an idea of how this particular individual is best for them. All that is left is the approach. It truly helps when undergraduate exhibit potential. Dressing professionally can’t be detrimental, so why not just go ahead and do it? Having a resume is a must. Even when undergraduates have no relevant experience, it still gives professionals an idea of the skills and resources they possess. Typically, a decent GPA (above 3.0) is also preferred. And to seal the deal, be able to explain why you need to work with them. Not all psychologists need people to work for them because may already have a full staff in their office or research lab. It is therefore important that this statement is reemphasized: Prospective mentees are pursuing a priceless learning opportunity. For this reason, be willing to work for little or no monetary compensation. This is real-time experience and being willing to work regardless of pay demonstrates dedication and can be an early indication of great character. After speaking with the psychologist, it is always recommended to send a follow-up email when you leave. This email should be a reintroduction and an expression of gratitude to the psychologist for his/her time. If a decision has yet to be made, end with this: “If there is any other information that I can provide to aid in your decision, please let me know.” And if a psychologist declines an undergraduate’s proposition after all this, they weren’t the mentor for that person anyway. But undergraduates should not take the rejection personal, they should simply keep work hard to find one. It’s worth it.

Written by: DeLeon L. Gray The Ohio State University, Educational Psychology Doctoral Student