Looking for a mentor? A few things to think about

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Part 1- Finding a mentor

Any medical professional who has had a mentor at any stage in their life will unhesitatingly agree that it is good to have a mentor. Mentors can be a hugely influencing throughout your career development. Whether you are an undergraduate still contemplating whether or not to apply to medical school or you are already a medical student poring over residency options or a post-doc searching for suitable faculty positions, a mentor can offer invaluable help along the way. Mentors advise you about your options when you are feeling overwhelmed. They provide encouragement when you are on the right path or a reality check when you are straying down the wrong and offer invaluable insight backed by years of experience. Last but not least, they can help you increase your network by introducing you to their own friends and colleagues.

Waiting for ward rounds to begin! How do you go about finding a mentor? 

Your first step towards gaining the benefits of a mentorship can be the most overwhelming – you need to identify the right mentor for you. For many students this often proves to be the biggest deterrent. So where do you start?

Some schools assign mentors to the students, which could be great if you get a mentor who’s right for you. If you are in a school that does not assign mentors, before you begin searching, take a few minutes to consider what you are looking for and what your needs are depending what stage of your career you are at. Are you an undergraduate considering a career in medicine, dentistry or nursing or are you a medical student considering residency? Are you an intern looking for advice on finding a practical work/life balance? Do you need guidance in dealing with the intense nature of your specialty?  While you don’t necessarily need a major life transition to prompt your search for a mentor, having a general goal in mind will help narrow your possibilities and keep your search focused.

When searching for a mentor, a good place to start is using the resources that you already have. Even if your school does not have a formal mentoring system in place, there are sure to be other faculty that you can approach – teachers, school counsellors and staff at the career centre – who would be happy to provide you with suitable leads. Outside the more formal system, senior students can be an invaluable resource in pointing out suitable mentors. These students can remember just what it was like to be in your shoes and will empathise with you strongly.

If you cannot find a mentor through the network you already have, look outside your network. One proven way to find the most appropriate mentor is to get involved in related group activities. For example if you are looking for a mentor in robotic surgery, joining your school’s surgery interest group will put you in touch with faculty associated with this specialty and who you could request to be your mentor. 

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