Get Mentored!

I recently got the opportunity to meet with a bunch of premeds recently and besides remember the anxiety they radiate as a group (and I’m almost done with med school, poor things) but I also remembered that the one thing that would have made my journey infinitely less of a disaster and confusing was if I had a mentor.

Literally all of it. I was a mess y’all.

Anyways, I very quickly remedied this when I started medical school and I actually have multiple mentors now and people I can easily go to if I’m having trouble understanding the next step or if I’m feeling lost. It made such a big difference. Which is why I think everyone should get at least one mentor, especially if you plan on continuing education that has a lot of convoluted steps involved.

While this is geared towards medical and other advanced education, I think these can work for anyone.

So here are some tips on how to get a mentor that works or you;

Who am I looking for?

You have a few options here, and fell free to utilize them all. The more the merrier. The ideal is someone a few steps ahead of you so they have enough experience to give you accurate, relevant and current advise, but not so far out they can’t remember exactly how to maneuver through your position. You’ll have a much easier time commiserating with this person since they went through what you’ve gone through not too long along without too many changes.

It is also worthwhile to have someone who has very significant experience but they may not be as easily accessible and be wary of when you’re doing things vs when they did things. Details tend to change quickly and someone, say, 20 years out of medical school won’t know the changes to application process to residency unless they’re directly involved with it or working with others in a similar position to you. That make sense?

And we certainly aren’t discounting people only a year or two ahead of you in your same program. It’s a goldmine of what classes to take, who to take them with, what resources to use, where to be and who to be seen by and all that jazz. So worth it.

How do I get a mentor?

The first step can be pretty intimidating because if you’re looking for someone who is ahead of you chances are you don’t know them super well, so asking them to be your guide on a very intimate process is scary. But don’t be discouraged, because it’s pretty easy to gauge when someone is willing to help you.

The first step is simply to ask. Ask in person, email, text, there’s no real wrong way to ask. The worst that can happen is they say they can’t do it. Thank them for considering it and move it. Someone will say yes eventually.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll be offered help, which you can take or leave at your leisure. You might also be assigned a mentor. These are more to use at your discretion.

Won’t I be bothering them with my questions?

Nope. If they’ve said yes to you, they’re giving you full passage to ask what you need when you need it. Could the answer come later than you hope? Sometimes. I mean personally, I’m usually really good about emailing my littles back right away but sometimes it takes more time than it should. I’m a busy nugget sometimes. But generally any form of communication will work, unless they specify. Then just stick to that. Easy.

What should I expect from my mentors?

Your mentor should have a healthy positive believe in your goals, but also help you coordinate your goals to your abilities. Early in the process, it can be hard to see beyond the big goal and match that up to the little milestones. Mentors can help guide you across those landmarks and what to expect with your performance or what needs to change so you can meet those goals.

A mentor should be able to give you tips and tricks to success that they’ve learned overtime. Some things may be obvious but others are almost little secrets that are invaluable. Plus they can let you know what times you should be aggressive vs passive because that’s such a tricky line to figure out on your own.

They should give constructive criticism without making you feel stupid or naïve. A lot of this will be new to you and mistake are expected. So if you don’t know something they shouldn’t make you feel silly for not knowing. But you also need to learn to take their perspective into account without feeling personally attacked. It comes with time.

Finally, you should expect some type of positivity, especially if you’re feeling a bit down. They’re not your therapists so don’t go that far, but you are welcome to say you’re feeling stressed or lost. Most mentors I’ve had, known and as a mentor myself feel like a little encouragement goes a really long way. Even a grumpy grump mentor can say good luck and you’re doing a good job every once in a while.

What if my mentor doesn’t like me after we’ve gotten to know each other better?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is do you feel like they don’t like you or do you know they don’t like you. Because some people just aren’t naturally friendly and positive but are still very willing to help you. Just because someone isn’t a ball of encouragement doesn’t mean they think you’re gross. Likewise if they give you a lot of criticism it doesn’t mean your on the outs. Some go overboard, yes. But some people are just wired that way.

If you know they aren’t vibing with you, or ignoring you, or being unhelpful it is okay to cut your losses and move on. You can find someone else.

What if I don’t like my mentor?

This is a little trickier. If they’re driving you nuts and you can’t stand them, just explain some of your concerns and if you feel like it’s too much slowly bow out. It’s okay. Just don’t offended anyone, we tend to all be pretty connected in this world, especially in the small medical world so tread carefully.

If your mentor is helping you and giving you information that is useful what you might want to do is back away from frequent conversation and just stick to updates, periodic questions and thank yous. They don’t have to be part of your every choice and move. But if someone wants to help you, let them.

Can I consider my mentor my friend?

Yes.

Can you tell them all your personal problems? Ehhh, use your judgement about how close your relationship is before delving deep.

Can I be a mentor and mentee at the same time?

Yep, I do it all the time. I just need to help everyone do everything. Hence the medicine thing. But don’t take on more than you can chew. Start with something little if you want to mentor and work your way up. It’s not as easy as it looks some days. Essentially, know your limits.

My mentor is amazing! How do I let them know?

Say so! Show gratitude! Send little gifts (and you might even get some back), thank you notes, tell them in person! Mentors are people too and they won’t know if they’re doing what you need unless you say so.

To all the mentees yet to be born go find a mentor to watch over you. They’re out there, really to shower you with knowledge. You won’t be sorry.

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