Mentorship and the Importance of a Healthy Mentor-Mentee Relationship

BY PAUL DELGADO, GRADUATE PROGRAM ASSISTANT

Have you ever thought about the ripple effect of mentorship? Did you know that 90% of people that are mentored want to mentor others? 

As a first-generation student, mentorship during my career has had a great impact in my professional and personal life. The guidance I have received from faculty, staff and peers over the years has been vital in my training and education. 

Academia can be very difficult to navigate without the proper training and guidance. It can also be a very lonely place when you feel like you are the only one going through certain situations. Before I started my graduate program, one of the most common advices I heard at conferences and from other graduate students was on finding a good mentor. I’m sure you have heard this and know by now of the importance of having a good match with your advisor/PI. However, creating the “perfect” mentor-mentee relationship in graduate school can be tricky and sometimes difficult. 

This post isn’t dedicated to telling you how to find the “perfect” mentor. Instead, it was created to give you some insight on how to cultivate a healthy mentor-mentee relationship.

1. Know it’s worth to build a healthy relationship: You don’t want to have a miscerable time during your graduate program because of your advisor. Although it may not be easy at first, it will pay off over the years. Your relationship with your mentor will be important for your graduate years and even after you earn your degree.

2. Have an open dialogue: Be up front about what is going on with your research. Your advisor/PI has been in your shoes and they know that it means to be a graduate student. School happens, personal problems rise, experiments fail. Be honest (don’t make excuses) and he/she will understand better what is going on in your professional and personal life.

3. Learn to accept constructive criticism: Your advisor/PI wants the best for you, be receptive to their advice and learn how to take criticism. At the end, they are trying to help you prepare for your future career.

4. Show gratitude: Be respectful of your mentor’s time and efforts. Advisors/PIs appreciate when you have a clear agenda in mind, show up on time, and be honest about progress and challenges. Remember, it’s a two-way relationship.

5. Continue the mentorship cycle: For some of us, mentorship can be a form of giving back and self-care. It’s a way to give back to your community, inspire younger generations, and pave the way for other students to come. 

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