Kathy Barker, Ph.D.
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
I'm Janis Apted, Director of Faculty Development, delighted to see so many people here today. I'm very delighted to introduce an old friend Dr. Kathy Barker. Kathy was here just over a year ago to do a talk on Lab Management and she's gonna do another talk on Lab Management this afternoon from three to five. This afternoon, we've asked her to talk on Mentoring, a topic which keeps coming up over and over again amongst our faculty chairs and our regular faculty wanting to know how to mentor and how to find mentors, but really how to be an effective mentor. So, we're delighted that she's gonna talk about that. I want to mention that Kathy has a Ph.D. in Microbiology. She's been an event scientist herself.
She's now a writer. If you do not have her book, At The Helm: A Laboratory Navigator on your desk and you're working in a lab, you should get it. This is a tremendous book about lab management. Covers the issue of mentoring, covers a lot of the personal issues and some of the harder things, people things to do in managing a lab. So, I recommend it highly. We have given this out to many, many, many of our postdocs and encouraged our faculty chairs to make sure that they have it in their labs. So, without further ado, I'm gonna ask Kathy to come up and start the workshop. I would encourage you, please to fill out the evaluations before you leave. Thank you.
Okay, good morning. The title of this is, Mentoring in a Modern World: How to make mentoring rewarding and effective. And mentoring is now one of those new buzz words, I think. What is a mentor? The term comes from the -- Mentor was a person who Odysseus picked to watch over his son Telemachus when he went wandering. So, that the word comes from someone who is an adviser and a teacher. But it means many, many things. It means something different every place you are. One person's mentor is another one's friend, a colleague, an adviser, a supervisor or role model, anyone of variation in between. So, it's very hard to know how to be a mentor because there's so many roles that you're expected to fill and these roles are different depending on your job and your location. But basically, for this talk, a mentor is someone who helps another person become a professional.
There's too many ways to do that, but it's someone's gonna do that extra step to get a person, not only to be a good scientist, but to do all the little ins and outs that they're not obvious to people. Now, why is there a sudden interest in mentoring in this there? I think there is, there is a new interest in mentoring. There's been a lot of changes in medicine and science and before where one person could lead another person through, it's much more complicated now. One person can't fulfill all these roles and so, mentoring fell short for many years, for many people. I think for institutions there was to realize that the better trained here people are, the better faculty you have, and then you have more success and you have more money, comes down to money probably that you can train your faculty better. And it's also become a buyers market. This is what people want now. People are more savvy about the training they're getting in medicine and science. When they come to a place, they wanna learn the profession and since a lot of that is not obvious, they need a mentor to do it. So, people will not come to places sometimes now, unless they know they know they can get a mentor.
So, institutions have had to get up on this. It is hard to know why people are not mentored well right from the beginning in graduate school. Part of the reason as a scientist is you're taught that independence is the most important thing. You have to be creative, you have to be independent, so many people resist themselves getting a mentor because they feel as if they're falling back, as if they're not good enough and they need to figure this out by themselves. Many advisers are not willing to be a mentor. They can get away with not being one and it's a difficult job, and so they just slide through. In many places there are no programs to do this, so people have no place to do to get a mentor. People may not be proactive in getting one. If there's no program, people don't go out and get one. And there's enough students around, there are always have been in science where you could sacrifice some.
If you have a big lab, you would mentor the people who are really good and there'd be a certain percentage of people that would fall by the way side and people -- there were enough students that people will just say, "Oh, well, we've lost them." Medical school is also tough. People are not mentored early in medical school and that's -- it ran with the old style, something like graduate school and only the stars are mentored. People would single out people who were very good and the people who were not very good will not get the training. There's few choices of course work early in medical schools, so there was no reason in a way to mentor people. Many people thought that you have one thing to do, so you didn't need to discuss choices. The system is actually quite adversarial in medical school. A lot of competition, so it's harder to find a kind mentor in that and there were few rewards for the mentors. It's not that as if even in science where you could someone, that person may work in your lab.
You would -- might be a mentor, but you actually got nothing tangible back for it. But now, with the new interest in mentoring, many institutions are actually requiring mentoring as something their faculty need to do. So, they're setting benchmarks and goals for people to be mentors at different stages of their careers. When you're an assistant professor, you'll be a different mentor than when you're a full professor for example. They're starting mentoring programs for junior faculty, as well as for trainees, residents and postdocs. It's becoming a requirement now for tenure in many places that you have to be a mentor. The mentor is being rewarded if you're evaluated well for being a mentor you get rewards now for big grants or recognition. And the institution then can use this good mentoring as way of promoting itself. This is ongoing in many institutions. It's not going on at all in many institutions. I think this institution is at the forefront of recognizing mentoring and pushing it.
This is from one university's expectations for mentoring that I'll go through quickly. These are Expectations for tenure, mentoring expectation for tenure that they give to people, that how to keep your records, how to approach people, who you should deal with, how to establish a track record and mentoring how this, how you would measure the success of your mentees. And they've also broken it down for example of your expectations at different times of your career. So, for example for an assistant professor, you've gotta be able to talk to people. One of the expectations that you are at a lower level you'll be able to deal one-on-one with students and you'll get rated on that. You have to be able to attend training sessions and understand what you say to a student, an undergraduate student, or an early graduate student about what choices and courses you should take, what training you need, what professors you should speak to. And that ramps up as you go along. So, when you're an associate professor, you have to demonstrate more maturity and more skill at mentoring.
You have to advise people on issues not just within an institution, but outside the institution as well. And as a full professor, you would be expected to be a mentor, not only for students, but for other faculty and to show people really how to deal with the outside world. So, these things are evaluated, every step of your career and your tenure and your career will depend on how well you mentor. This is just a little further an expectation for professors at which you really have a very, very high level of mentoring. The high level, it's actually sometimes expected - people expected themselves when they're first starting out, which is very hard to achieve. You really will ramp up and learn on how to be a good mentor. And to terms that everyone use a mentor, this is not just for students or for trainees. The people need mentors in almost every stage of their career. When you're a graduate student, you need a, and a postdoc, you need a mentor to help you decide how to create a project, how to do the science, how do you write it up.
Medical students need help in deciding what specialty they wanna get into. When you're in college you may need to know, just when you wanna do a science, you wanna do medicine, you wanna do something else. As a resident, you have the different roles you have to play. Clinical and research that you need help on. And as faculty you need help to make professional advancement, to get tenure because those are largely on written roles that you need someone to help you really through the ropes if you wanna be successful. So, because this is at every stage of your career you're mentoring and you're being mentored at the same time. Mentoring is a collaboration, there are two sides of the same coin. You need to be a mentor, you need to have a mentor. So, the first stage is having a mentor. Hopefully, everybody starts off with having a mentor sometime. And you have to first know, this is gonna come down to you, even if there's a program, you have to know what you want from a mentor. You wanna know what it is exactly you need for a particular person at a particular time.
If you want success, you want the mentor to be successful because you're learning from them, so the mentor should be good at what you wanna learn from him. The mentor should have integrity. You need to trust this person. You're gonna be exchanging perhaps a very personal information and you need to trust the person you're talking to. You wanna know the mentor has connections in the system that they're not only gonna help you immediately, but they could help you in the larger world of science. The person should know the system well. Not just be good at science, but be good in all other intangibles that make up being successful in your career. And the mentor should also be interested in you. This is a tough one to find and has to be someone that really is going to care for you. So, mentors can also be real models. That's kind of the lowest level. When you come to a place, you wanna look around and see who the real models are and identify them when you're looking for a mentor. Because you do get your job in science with one set of skills, which is your science, but you're gonna get promoted with other skills.
You're gonna get promoted for your communication skills, your ability to get a team to work on a project, your ability to write up papers and communicate at meetings and those skills are the ones that you need to see how they're done. So, you can look around and see someone who's successful in that and start to pattern yourself after that. You have to choose, but you have to be very active in that, you don't just pick someone as a role model because they have the lab next to you. You've got to know what's important and look around for you and see what's important. And you have to remember that what works for one person may not work for you. Everybody's different. Someone may have a very different kind of personality, maybe be a micro-manager and what works for them for you with the freestyle would fall flat. So, you've got to know yourself and be very careful about who you are and what you want when you're looking around even for a role model. The mentor - you are really unlikely nowadays to find one big perfect on-composing mentor. I think it's the image that a lot of us have that you will find someone that's gonna take you under his wing, it's usually the great big huge his who's gonna show you everything, but it's really, really hard to find. If you find it, it's the most wonderful thing, but more likely, you're gonna have to patch together different mentors to give you the full picture of the skills you need.
The ideal situation is that if your supervisor is your mentor. If the person you're working with in doing your research with is your mentor, that's how you can learn the best and learn the most, but not everyone is going to find that. You may have a supervisor that is a wonderful mentor and maybe a partial mentor in some things, like science or maybe communication. It may not even be a mentor at all. So, more likely, you're gonna have to choose your mentors a la carte. You're gonna have to identify at different stages of your career what it is you need to learn and look around and find those people that you need to learn it from. So, some of the things you may need a mentor for in science are things like getting tenures. Someone who can walk you through the procedure within the department, how do you pick a job after your postdoc or after tenure even to move on. What choices, how do you fire people, personal dealing, how do you hire someone, how do your fire someone.
Who should you talk to in the department if you wanna get more space, little personal things like how do you manage time, how do your teach a class of young undergraduates, and also some people who also look for mentors on how to integrate your home life with your family life because this is a very, very tough thing. It's something that you have to have upfront because no times gonna open up magically for you to have a personal life and this is something that you gonna have to deal with and integrate from the beginning. So, looking around and getting tips on that from someone is very useful. So, it is a little tricky sometimes to deal with multiple mentors because it's not that you're just having at different stages, one at a time. You may have several at a time and they're changing, it's always a dynamic. So, let your mentors know about each other. Don't set up a situation where you're listening to one person, someone's telling you something else and so, you're not listening to the one mentor because you're getting a different advice.
Let your mentors know about each other, but don't, you know try not to get in trouble by picking two people in the competing position to be your mentors. You don't wanna pick an adversary of your supervisor for example to be your other mentors because and you're always setting your advice off against each other. When your supervisor is not your mentor, you do have to thread very carefully. I mean, you can actually, probably question why you would have a supervisor that's not your mentor because this can be a really tough situation, but you may, you may have chosen to go to a lab where it's clear that the supervisor doesn't care about anybody that you're struggling on your own and that's fine with you. You decided to do it for professional reasons and you need a mentor for someone else. Just be very careful to keep each other appraised of what's happening in the conversation. Remember that your supervisor has the final word, but you're gonna have to go back and forth and let each other know what they're saying and try to get your mentor and your supervisor to meet. So, that they are thinking of themselves as a team even if it's mostly your mentor who's doing the work with you. So, where do you find a mentor when you come some place?
Start with your institutional programs. A lot of places have one, a young faculty, a lot of places will match you up with somebody. Take it. Even if you have another mentor, take whatever is offered you can learn from everybody. In your workplace you can look around and find people that you can work with. There's different mentoring programs that may be separate from your actual institution, say a postdoc organization may offer mentors to you. You may look at special interest organizations. Several different cultural organizations will have mentors, say for women or for different cultures, different races, different nationalities. Take advantage of those mentors as well. There's also a new thing now with e-mail mentoring, which can be useful. It shouldn't be the only thing you do, but there are organizations like the American Medical Association has a mentoring program where you e-mail your mentor and staying regular email contact and ask questions. So, when you're getting a mentor, try different ways even when the program, try formal and informal mentors. A formal mentor would be one at the institution offers to you through a program. Informal would be someone that you set up yourself.
You like their style, so you approach that person informally, but with in formal and informal, you still have to know what you want, so if your formal program assigned you to somebody that you don't like, you're absolutely not gonna learn form this person. Say excuse me, I need another mentor. Don't just accept someone that is really gonna drag you down instead of building you up. Be proactive even within a formal organization. And don't, you know, do not think of starting your own organization. This is how a lot of these societies have started in many places, postdocs for example have gotten together and stared this as an organization to get their own mentors because the institution hasn't help them out. So, if you know being in the look-out for dong that you may be able to start your own. And there's -- must formal mentoring program will have a set of rules that are good to stick to somewhat. They protect both the mentor and the mentee. The relationship is voluntary. You come on, even within the program when someone's assigned to somebody, it is voluntary, you are choosing that person, you are accepting the assignment.
You should not be in the same chain of command in a formal program. In other words, you don't want your mentor to be some that you're gonna need a promotion from. That's, to you, you cannot -- you wouldn't be able to confide in that person, they may not have your best interest at heart despite their best intentions. So, you don't wanna have someone in your chain of command. Again, as the supervisors advice is always gonna be stronger than the mentor even in a formal program when you're assigned someone, you still have to come to your supervisor for the final word and things that you're going to do. Most places will now require mentors and mentees to go to training because it's very delicate to some of these situations. You hear a lot of personal things, sometimes it's hard to communicate with certain people, so there are training -- there is training in a lot of places to help you do that. Most of the places will give you a mentoring agreement that you have to go along with, abide by. Both partners have to be actively involved. It's a commitment on both sides. If you have a mentor that there are certain obligations that you have and this kind of a no fault diverse provision for many people, if the mentoring is not working, you're able to terminate it even within a formal agreement in an institution.
So, if you were -- a lot of people would get their mentors informally, again in addition to a formal mentor, you will approach someone. So, you have to decide how you're gonna approach a person to be a mentor. If it's someone that you know only very slightly, use email. Make sure you put it in the subject line what you're doing, but use email for that. Phone is for someone that if the person will recognize your names, you could have a good conversation. And in person if you know, if you know that person, feel free to go right up to him. And of course, all these can be changed depending on your dynamic, but if you do it by e-mail, make sure that, for someone who's very busy, generally, people tend to flock to the same mentors, unfortunately. You know people are extremely busy, so but e-mail put it in the subject line that you're looking for, say something like tenure advice for mentorship. Let people know, introduce yourself, provide the contact information, ask if you should provide a CV. Be very polite. Leave openings for the person to accept or not accept your mentoring suggestion. And by phone you have to follow through pretty much, but stay very, very polite. Asking someone to be a mentor is actually a very hard thing.
So, call with enough time, don't just dump in to someone. Ask if you can call to make, have a discussion about the mentorship. Introduce yourself, say how you met that person. Let the person choose, set up a timing somewhat where you're going to meet and e-mentoring again, do take advantage of these kinds of programs. They provide you a different kind of advice and generally won't be such a personal advice but you can get very impartial advice and unemotional background. For some people that's really good. Some people can be more free by email to give really good advice than they can be in person. So, some people don't mind being approached for an email mentorship, sometimes as much as in face, because they're panic about time. So, for some people you can even start out with an email mentoring relationship and sometimes it works up to a bigger one, but they can -- you can a lot of information if you take advantage of it. But with every one of these mentoring things, you need goals. Whether it is all encompassing, sort of an adviser supervisor mentor model or whether it's someone for very specific advice, you need goals all the time if it's going to be effective. And you should have all those goals in mind when you talk to someone.
You should know that I wanna learn to write a grant better, I wanna know how I can interview and really find the people I want. Have a very specific goal. This actually helps the mentor you're approaching because it's very, again hard for someone whose time is so constricted that someone say, "I wanna learn everything from you." But if someone comes and says, "I have this procedure I like to learn from you, most people be very, very happy to help you. But you as the mentee also have to adhere to some rules to help the mentor. You have to have very realistic expectations. Your success is still in your own hands. There's no mentor that's gonna save you and teach you all the secrets. It's still up to you to get the information that you need and to act upon it. Be very receptive to criticism, you've gotta be able to listen to feedback, that's the main reason for mentor and you're gonna hear things that you sometimes don't wanna hear. So, you've gotta be prepared to listen and to be criticized and to take advantage of that.
Be very considerate about time, you know, come when you're supposed to come, do what you've discussed to make sure that you show that you've discussed something, you've done something, come back and show the person, always keep in touch, always give feedback and evaluate the relationship as you go along. You have to be keeping in mind whether or not this is actually an effective relationship that you have. It may be pleasurable, it may be fun, but you've got to keep in mind whether or not it's effective. So, things to think about as you go along that you should be evaluating is, are you meeting the goals in having a mentor. Are you learning to write a grant, have you learned more about the interviewing, do you have a relation -- a good relationship, do you enjoy the person, do you think that they're getting something back? That is a very important thing because this is a collaboration. It goes back and forth and you hopefully, you also will look at what you're giving to the mentor. And you've gotta be able to end the relationship at any time, so be very clear, be very kind. This is one of the expectations of mentoring, so don't feel bad that you're letting the person down or disappointing them.
You could be very clear and say, "thanks so much for all your help, I set out to learn to interview and you helped me so much, so I don't think we need to meet so often" or, you know, work it out with them mentor, but you can end that very clearly. Be very appreciative and give feedback and keep in touch because most mentors, this is the reward is the relationship that you build and knowing someone is doing well. So, for your own sake because keeping this mentor as your friend and colleague forever is gonna be useful to you and it's also very wonderful for the mentor that you keep in touch and that person can know how you're doing. So, the other side this is being a mentor, which hopefully you've learned a lot from having one and you can turn those around and being a mentor. So, there are different ways to break down what you will actually be doing depending again on the situation, what's someone has asked you.
In a way you response to one of your broker, you're giving people clear options, you're introducing to people that you're gonna further the career, you're telling them about resources that they can use to get better. You're a teacher and a coach. You're gonna give them a professional help in learning to give a speech, in learning to do a presentation. You are or can be a caregiver, someone who is a friend, who can listen in a kind of unbiased way to the - - this is a hard times, someone maybe having and the troubles or having in the department and you can be an exemplar in a way this is a role model, someone who can demonstrate the things that you're teaching to someone. Show that you have the confidence and the skills that you are ethical, that you know how to practice team work. Showing all these to the person that you mentor is another way of teaching them. So, what helps you to make you a good mentor? Everyone probably will be asked to do it and some people are gonna be better at it than other people. Some people really enjoy it. It does help to have good interpersonal skills. If you can communicate well, it makes it easier to talk to someone and it makes it easier to pass on the things you need to pass on, being having a good organizational knowledge.
This is knowledge about how to be organized, you know, if you could teach someone how to think, how to compartmentalize, how to carry out the different parts of your career, if you're good at that yourself, you're probably a better mentor because you'll understand the specific situations that each stage of the career. Your professional knowledge, you've gotta be good at what you do. You have to be good at what you can do, otherwise, your advice is gonna fall short. So, you're a professional achievement is really one of the primary goals before you can teach someone. And this actually makes it difficult to be a mentor in your early years, this is something that bothers people because they feel like they're not really skilled enough to be a mentor. But you only need to be a little bit more skilled really to pass something on to someone. As long as you're not passing yourself off as an expert if you're very clear about who you are and what you can give, you can always give a little bit. And you've got again, you have to be willing to assist in another person's growth. This has to be an important to a mentor. You're not gonna be a good mentor if you're forced to be one and you really don't care. Part of the way and you'll learn to be a mentor is if you were well mentored.
Some say they're well mentored, some say they don't. It really depends. It doesn't matter, it very well might matter, some people say that I was never mentored, so other people don't need a mentor. Some people wanna pass on what they've learned. Some people will adapt the style of their mentor. It really will have an effect on you whether or not you're well mentored, but if you haven't been, you still can learn to be one. And there are times when perhaps you shouldn't be a mentor. Some people should not be a mentor. If you really believe that you got there where you were without help and everybody by golly should also get there without any help, you're probably not gonna be a very good mentor. Even for small things, you just may not have the personality type for this. And if you wanna be a mentor purely because you wanna bask in, sort of a reflected glory and wanna have someone who really admires you and everything, that's really not a good way to be a mentor either. It can't really be about you. This has to be a real consideration in care for the other person. No that you're not gonna get something back, not that having that back and forth isn't gonna be helpful for you, but you have to have that other person's interest in mind.
So, you have to evaluate, if you wanna be a good mentor, you have to evaluate whether or not you can be for each person. When somebody comes to you, you have to think about whether or not you actually do have the right skills. You may wanna help someone, you may have a burning need to help this person, but you have to really think about whether or not you can help the person what they need to know. You should know, think about whether or not you have the time because again, no matter how well intentioned you are, if you don't have the time and you put someone off for week to week and month to month, you're not helping them, you will end up hurting them. You have to know if you like or respect the person well enough to do a good job. So, you have to be pretty much in touch with yourself and think about whether or not you're gonna be able to sit and listen to this person. And be able to help this person. So, don't promise what you can't give.
You have to know what your time limits are, know what your skills are and know what your prejudices are. And this doesn't mean that you just say, you know, I'm prejudice, I just don't like women, I don't like the way she talks, I don't like this. It doesn't mean that you just go with that and say that I'm not gonna mentor this person. You do wanna try to live with it. You hopefully you wanna try to open yourself up and you've learn a lot of things by this relationship as well as the person. Well, you have to know if there's something that you can't deal with. If you can't deal with the fact, say that someone is a parent, they're only gonna work nine to five and you feel terribly resentful about that and you don't think you can get pass it, then you cannot be a mentor for that person. The failing in the unwanted, do you take them on? I think it's very easy for everyone to take care of people who are really, really good, really smart, really bright and we're gonna make it.
Everyone wants to mentor those people, but what're you gonna do about the people that don't have success stamp on their forehead? And this is a personal decision that you're gonna have to make. Can you help the person? If you think you can help the person, you see something in them that you could bring out and pull forth and make them successful, if you great to do it. You have to consider him whether your future depends on it. If you're just starting out with a lab and you've got too many people and there are too many needy people to help, you may not have the time to do it no matter how much you wanna do it. Your future may fall if you're spending all your time taking care of people and not getting results it really won't help anybody. On the other hand you maybe in a kind of place perhaps a small institution where you don't have to write your own grants, well, this is your future. Where your future is not wrapped up in how many papers you have, but how many students you could bring along and mentor. In that case you may be more inclined to find those people that need help and to help them out. And if this is the way that you are thinking that may be the kind of job you're looking for with the mentoring actually becomes more the rewards than the science.
You have to remember you can always say no. You can say no to people that ask you to mentor them. You have to be very honest about it, if you think you can't work with the person, if you don't have time, be honest, be clear and tell them why they can't. If you can't do it, do suggest to people where they can go. You should have enough connections that you can say, I can't help you with this, however, I would suggest you go to so and so and you can make the phone call and see if that person would take that person on. Try not to leave people hanging. And gender and culture mentors, a lot of people feel extremely pressured to be a gender and cultural mentor. A lot of people have noticed that if there are particular nationality the lad maybe sold with people to same. Women tend to flock to women's labs. A lot of people resent this. They don't wanna be mentors and they say why should I? I don't wanna just be restricted, I wanna be mentored to everybody, and they just don't wanna do it, but it really is an important thing to do. Again, if you don't wanna do it, you've gotta know about that and be upfront about it, but it is, even if it's not important to you, even if you were a minority and you made it without any kind of help.
Not everybody is the same. And hopefully you can pass the tips that you've learned on to somebody else. It is so important to so many people to see someone like themselves doing something that if they modeled themselves after and work with. So, try as much as you can to be a mentor for different people from different groups who may approach you. So, when you choose, sometimes you get to choose who you mentor, sometimes you'll go right up to somebody and you'll pick someone that you think that needs some extra help or someone you really wanna work with. But when you're choosing someone, look at recommendations. As in picking someone for a job that the biggest predictor of how someone's gonna do is probably what they did in their past jobs. Don't be restricted by this because your job is to pull things out, but if you talk to people and you'll get a bit of an understanding about this person about whether or not you can actually work with them whether your motivations are the same and your goals are the same.
So, look at their background. Think about how likely this will be successful and when you interview someone, you know, you can ask the right questions, but go with your gut feeling, which is really the summation of your, all those little subtle things that you can't put together perhaps can't put into words, but you may have indistinct feeling whether or not you can work with someone. Go with that; don't be restricted by it because some people don't have good instinct for this kind of thing. Once you say yes, you then you have to follow certain rules with that person. No matter how casual the relationship is. When you -- show your integrity really by very small things. So, when you say, you're gonna be available, be available. Don't say I'm there every Thursday and then blow someone off even for the most casual thing. It really can have such an effect on someone to be blown off by their mentor even for a small thing. You wanna be critical. This is not just about friendship and making someone feel good. You're there to give professional help and no matter what capacity you are, you're not just the best buddy. You are a mentor, even if you are in the friend role your ideas to give -- you need to be critical. You're the only person sometimes that can be critical.
So, if you feel that somebody is making a really bad mistake, please be the one to come forward and say that that you feel that. You wanna be courteous with the person always, you wanna be honest and don't forget to always be establishing goals. You're mentee also is gonna have their own goals, but it's also your responsibility to establish goals. The two of you together will work out what the goals are of the relationship. You wanna meet regularly, this is really, this is the simplest thing to do and it's the one that doesn't get done the most and this photo's from someone whose institution that does have mentoring program. When I ask him about it, he say, we meet with our faculty mentors once a year and they tell you, you need to have more papers and you need to have more grants and that's it until the end of next year. And that for some people is their mentoring program. Someone sits down and tells them you gotta work harder. That's really not good enough, that's not particularly helpful, so but the main thing is in one of these programs meets more than once a year, meet -- set a schedule as often will be helpful for the task that you have at hand.
So, if you were a faculty mentored a place, you probably need to be at least once a month. If you're gonna be effective with somebody. Once a year, two times a year are not enough to be a mentor. So, you've got to manage your time and of course this is something you wanna teach. So, you wanna schedule and keep your appointments, be on time, be realistic about how much time the person will need to achieve goals. You've gotta really think about time very much and then the good thing is to teach in whatever your mentor for a pass on or your idea of how to deal with time. That's one of the hardest things that people find is how to prioritize and deal with the many jobs they'll have, so if you can pass on to some of your tips on dealing with time by example and by actual teaching that's terrific. Within this you're always working within your own personality. No matter what the formal mentoring situation is, no matter what the expectations, you have to work within your own personality to do this.
So, you wanna establish trust by, you wanna make clear that you have great integrity, you're not gonna pass on private information, you're not going to use something someone had said against them that you keep, you wanna be honest and clear. And the clarity is really important. People don't know where you're coming from. That's why they're coming for help, they don't understand all the things. You have to be very clear about what you're saying. And it sounds boring, but you want to be predictable. In order to establish trust with someone they have to know what they can expect. They have to know what things get you angry, what things get you upset, how you're gonna react to certain situations. So, try to keep your emotions under control in a way. Don't fly off the handle, don't go up and down, be a, kind of bedrock for the person, they know with whom they're dealing.
So, you wanna have open communication with your mentee, but what do you communicate and what you wanna communicate, it's almost everything within the limits of your arrangement, what your experiences are and how they relate to the person, what are your evaluations of the person, what are your personal philosophies, what things have guided you. If you tell people that they'll understand, they'll be able to interpret what you're actions are, much better if they'll understand how you think. You wanna explain what your resources are, what your background is, why, how, you wanna explain, you wanna communicate just about everything 'cause people need to know all these things in order to make decisions and learn how to be a professional. In order to be very clear about yourself, you also have to first be very clear about yourself to your self and this is probably the hardest step to get over because you've got to go through a self evaluation process all the time during this if you're gonna help someone else.
So, you gotta be clear about what your values are. Do you value good research, if you value good colleagues? What do you think is most important in science and in research in your life? You should know what it is that's important to you and be able to communicate that to a mentee. And then you wanna tailor the mentee's expectations to your own strengths, this is where knowing yourself. You know for example that you cannot help someone get a job for some reason you're not very good at that kind of negotiation. You've gotta know that that is not one of your strengths and therefore, you cannot help that person and you need to send them to someone else. And you've gonna have to learn to accommodate change to yourself as this goes along. You're gonna learn a lot of things about this person and even though you have this clear idea about what you are, you're gonna have to modify how you approach the person as you go along with time, but only from knowing yourself as much as possible can you do all this.
And always remember that your mentee is not a clone of yourself. This is very, very hard to keep in mind that no matter how similar the phenotype. First, you went to the same college or grew up in the same country, that person is not you. What work for you will not necessarily work for somebody else. So, you have to learn as much as you can about the other person to be able to tell your advice to that other person. And you wanna make ethics part of everything you do. In a lot of places, in ethics training is part of mentor training or part of professional training somewhere. But be very upfront with someone about the ethics, not only for your relationship, so the people understand you, but because that's a really, really important thing to impart to someone. No matter what you're training them and it's ethics. That should be the underlying; the underpinning of everything that you teach someone is ethics.
So, you wanna teach it by example, by small things, being on time, keeping your word. You wanna teach it by word, by saying what you find important, why you feel conversations someone's having is inappropriate, why you think a certain decision was bad. Be very upfront about ethics; don't be shy about it because if you let things go, say some sort of a racial slur or something you're contributing to it. So, you've got to be very proactive in attacking ethical issues. You wanna show interesting caring and this is very hard for some people, some people are not wired to be kind and to really care about someone. So, if you made the decision that you'd like to be, you actually can learn to be a caring person if you want the best for that person and the main thing is by listening. And I think that's the word I could say over and over, but really listening to what the person is saying that's the best way to show interesting caring.
Don't do so much talking. When you sit down with someone, let the other person talk and hear what they're saying, really, really listen. You always have to be aware of the power balance in the relationship because even if that person is coming to you for sort of friendly advice or advice about how to integrate their personal life against the workplace and it seems like it's a friendship and you're on equal footing, you're not on an equal footing. You have more power. And that means the friendship is not even and you're the one that's probably has to keep that in your head. So, you can be friendly sometimes without being a friend. You may wanna be a friend, that maybe the way you chose to deal with people as a mentoring relationship, but you can be friendly without being a friend. You could set the limits on where you wanna go emotionally. You have to be really careful since the power is in your hand to avoid abusing it. And your opinion is gonna be followed very much.
That person they look up to you and you gotta be careful even if that's a wonderful mirror and someone is copying everything you do. You've gotta not let that go to your head because it may not be appropriate to that person. So, you have always to be careful that the advice you're giving is good for that person, not something that makes you feel better, that it's not a decision that makes you feel better because that person is following up, but it will be good for them. It's very hard to do that. You have to also overtly be careful that the advise that you're giving isn't gonna benefit you. And this is where being a supervisor can be especially tricky because in a way you are an adversary sometimes with someone your own lab, say because what they need at a certain time is not what you need. You're needing papers and this person may need some personal time for some reason and so, you've got your competing interest.
So, you have to be very careful to keep the persons own needs and mind when you're giving advice. And be careful also of your own political and philosophical agendas and background. You may really believe in a certain thing and you may really believe that everybody should believe in that thing, but it may not be true. So, be careful not to, you know, you may believe that everybody should do some sort of voluntary work. Don't push someone into it because you believe that deeply. You've gotta make sure again that if fits in with what the other person needs to do. And the main track that mentors can find themselves a good mentor is engagement versus enmeshment. Meaning engagement, you're with that someone, you're connecting with them, you've become a friend, you've got a back and forth and it's really wonderful. But it's a really fine line between that and getting totally enmeshed and rock up in that person's life. You're not their navigator. You're not the person that's leading them the whole life.
You're a mentor, you're helping them come to decisions, you're trying to get them to grow. You're not telling them what to do, you're not part of their lives in a way, you are trying to stay a little bit off sides you can give good advice. So, you have to be very careful to stay engage with the person, but not get so wrapped up in it that you no longer seeing this as two different people. You may probably be more than one mentor. Just as you will look for yourself, look for more than one mentor to help you. Your mentee is probably gonna have more than one mentor. And that's sometimes can be harder on the ego than you think. If you really, really engaged mentor, you wanna give advice and this person has another mentor that's giving other advice, you're gonna have to learn to deal with that 'cause the bottom line is what's good for the person. So, first of all don't be offended if you're there as a sort of all encompassing mentor and the person said, you know I'd like to speak to someone so about grant writing because I see she's very good at that. Don't get offended.
Don't, remember that this is the person that that needs something, that your helping that person, so try not to let your ego get hurt when that person isn't gonna find everything in you. Don't interfere with another mentor. If you believe that someone else is giving that person bad advise, it's not your place to interfere. You may want to discuss it with the person, but you shouldn't go above the mentee's head and discus that person with another mentor. Always remember even with another mentor that your conversations are confidential. So, you may ask a mentee, if you two mentors can discuss the person, but you shouldn't be discussing that person above his or her head. They're relying on confidentiality in each individual relationship. So, you have to be very careful to consider that when you're one of the multiple mentors. When the main things you're gonna teach a person to do is networking. For many people the supervisor or the mentor, you're the first step in the network that you're hoping a person will establish throughout the career in all encompassing every growing network. So, you're the first point of contact for somebody.
Through your conversations with them, they're learning how to talk to other scientists. So, always be aware of that, as well as trying to introduce that person to other people so they can learn how to expand their discussion with science or understanding of science. Try to teach them what it is about the scientific conversation. Not everybody knows how to have one. You'll find a lot of people who can write brilliant papers and do wonderful experiments, but actually have no idea how to do a back and forth an ideas. So, you wanna try to teach people how they can network, how they can talk about that, how they can learn to collaborate. You also have to, you probably, run into people that don't wanna stay in science or medicine and this is very hard for people. It's very hard when you've worked very hard to take it very seriously, of say someone wants to branch out into law or heaven forbid writing, something like that. You have to be able to keep your mind open to help someone else. It is true that even if somebody's not gonna stay in research you cannot accept lower expectations on the job because someone says I'm not gonna be doing research forever, they still should work as hard as anybody else to get the same degree, to get the same raining and everything like that.
That should be one of the things you keep in mind, but you've gotta stay respectful even if you don't understand why they're doing that. You may find this person as the most wonderful person, the most wonderful scientist you have ever seen and they intend to go into something that you may even find repulsive, like corporate law or something. You've gotta stay respectful and still train them and still help them to the best of their ability and that's not always easy. If you can't do this you should suggest somebody else instead of undermining the person and always nudging them to do what you think they should be doing. If you can't meet their desires and their needs for a career, do send them to somebody else. And you wanna always be evaluating your progress towards the goals. The mentee will be evaluating, but you wanna evaluate as well, you wanna set your goals together and do evaluate. Do it regularly. You could also do regular evaluations the way you would do in a laboratory.
You wanna have that relationship, that mentoring relationship evaluated. A nice thing that people often do now is to let the mentee evaluate himself or herself and then talk about the decisions that they've made together. So, they say, no, you know our relationship I don't feel like we've been talking very much and then you can discuss it after the mentee has looked at it. And you want to -- as the result of the evaluations or maybe in the course of your relationship, the kindest thing that you can do is to be critical. That's the main thing you could do. It's much easier to be uncritical friend and support and to be someone that can give really, really good critical advice. This is probably the hardest you would have to do as a mentor is to be critical when it's gonna hurt, but it's absolutely if you can do this in the best way, it's the best thing you could do. And if you give critical advice, I mean you may wanna have to say something as hard as, you know, I don't feel that you're gonna make it in academic career. If you feel this and you should think very hard about it and with the understanding that what you say isn't necessarily the bottom line or the truth will happen or something like that. You wanna explain it very carefully and you don't wanna dump and run.
You don't wanna leave someone with this kind of what you find insulting and then leave. You wanna do it, be critical, help them through it and always follow up. If you have work together with someone on and been very critical and very helpful in getting them say out to the lab or into another lab, don't just say, okay it's out of hands now and I'm done. Follow up and see what happens to the person, see if you can if they need a little help along the way, often a wavering after a big step like that. So, don't just leave. You may find all mentee has signed up for relationship. You may find that you don't feel that the person is listening to it all. This can come up pretty commonly, they don't have to do it you say, again you're just a mentor you're helping, but they should listen. You should expect this as you're listening, you should expect that your mentee is also listening to you and trying to process. There may personality conflicts that don't let this happen.
There maybe difference in communication, different cultural expectations communications that are making things go flat. It could be that you think that the person is not telling the truth. The person may not be able to take criticism. There could be a lot of things, a lot of things that make the mentee less receptive and you've gotta decide how to work with them. Most of these situations can be dealt with. Most people don't come in trying to subvert themselves, they are trying to do the best, so if you have a bad relationship with a mentee and something's happening, before you just decide that you should need another mentor, try to work through and try to think about why that person, why wouldn't that person be listening to you. There's probably a reason, it's probably with you. A lot of times it maybe with the person, but most of the time it's gonna be with the mentor. When they won't listen just --- don't just slide them off.
Remember that noncompliance is a way of trying to get control. It seems like the opposite, it seems like you're not going anywhere, but for a lot of people when they're hearing advise they don't wanna take, when they feel like someone is perhaps subverting them or not caring for them, noncompliance is a way of saying I'm just not gonna listen to you. It's a strong step, so listen up for why someone may not be going along with you. Again, it's often you're the problem, maybe you're not listening well and noncompliance. So, you wanna try to work on the problem together, if someone is not going along with you try to figure out what it is, if you cant figure it out, you do have to suggest another mentor. It could be a stage of life, it could be a personality conflict, but try to work it out when the mentee is not listening and then move on if not. You wanna have your mentorship evaluated by your mentees. All long not just for that person's sake, but for your sake, so you can learn how to be a better mentor as you go along. So, this is several things, this is a website you can go to for the national academy, there's several places where you wanna have someone evaluate your relationship.
How they're learning from you intellectual growth and development, research, professional career development, academic guidance, skill development and personal communication. Now, could be that you're just a partial mentor, so all these things don't apply, but you wanna evaluate yourself in all these different places. So, for example there's suggested that even a checklist where you don't have to go into great depths, but you answer things like under intellectual growth and development, does my mentor encourage my imagination, creativity, does he encourage my inventiveness as far as new research topics and techniques. Does he help me develop logical thought and to draw inferences from data. Something that's not always clear. Does he help me be critical and objective concerning my own results and ideas. I'm going through these just to show you how hard it actually is to be a mentor in a way. Each thing you do is broken down into different categories and different levels of understanding.
Some will be able to do well and some won't be able to do well, but the more of these things that you can consider the better. And on the research is not just picking the hot topic, for someone to show you how to do original research, they have to help you design the experiment. Find the important questions, how do you improve your observation, how do you improve your note taking your data keeping, how do you communicate that. And for career development which is a very prominent, a place for most people when you need a mentor along the way. How does that person help you make professional decisions, do they teach you about ethics, they teach you how to deal with your colleagues, will they give you guidelines in finding how well did they give you guidance and finding a job and postdoc opportunity, and new lab when you need one. Academic guidance which many people would do even if you are running a lab you'll have academic guidance for younger people. Will that person help me plan courses and curriculum relative to my own career plans, will they discuss my own personal pitfalls and things I'm doing right. Things I might be doing wrong.
Under skill development, the same things will -- does the mentor takes step to help me do my planning, my organization, does he give constructive criticism on my presentation skills, does he give constructive criticism on my writing skills. Under personal communication, people are asked to evaluate their mentor. Does he listen to my concerns, does he keep in touch with me, does he take to account my gender, my cultural background, is he respectful towards my interest and work, does he take advantage of me. Particularly important for a supervisor, does he provide feedback in important in a good fashion. So, what makes a mentor special? If everyone is expected to do it, what's going to make a mentor good or bad? One thing is honesty. A good mentor doesn't just say what the person wants to hear. He's not just the mirror reflecting thing back and forth. He's very honest, he's very critical about what he's doing. A good mentor should have the vision, not just to encompass the immediate situation, but know the personality the person see what traits they're gonna need as they go along in their lives as they move from step to step and then again, but from the big vision. A good mentor also has the ability to fill in that big vision with the small steps.
Now, to get there to that big picture, what small things do you need? With your personality, what are the immediate small things that you can do to make a big difference to your profession? I think probably the most helpful advice is these two books on being a scientist and adviser, teacher, role model and friend, which are available free from the national academy of sciences. You can either get them online or you could send for a hard copy, but they're very, very useful advice on being a mentor in a very small package. And the payback on mentoring, you really do get real payback on it. It's gonna further your networks because as you go along those networks will not only go up, they're gonna go down, they're gonna in all directions. So, mentoring is gonna help you have a whole network, a whole family of science. Immediately it will help you get students and fellows. If you're known as good mentor you'll get more people in your lab.
It's probably one of the single draws that a young starting assistant professor has. Before a career is established what it can really make someone shine is the ability to be a good mentor. So, you can pull people to your lab from this. It does help you to stay on top of your field because as you go along you're gonna learn from people. So, not only science but those communication, you're gonna learn about communication with other people, you're gonna communicate with other people who're also gonna be big in science and will help you become a better scientist. You'll get tips on research through people as your mentees spread out. It is a requirement for a job. So, not only you can get people but when you move from job to job, having been a good mentor, having good evaluation turned in for you its gonna help you to get a good job.
But the main thing is that the personal satisfaction because many people start off a career with academic success as the one driving thing, but most people towards the end will find that helping people along has actually been the most fulfilling part about their careers. So, the mentoring is becomes why you're there no matter where you started. It's the one place in science where there really if you fall - unless for most people you can be replaced. In science, there's so many scientist out there that there are people that can do what you're doing. It's a horrible thing, but they probably can, but the effect you can have on another human being is really tangible long lasting effect where you can really, really make a difference in the world, which is why a lot of people go into science in the first place. This is where it can happen. So, good luck to all of you.
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