Making the Most
BY LISA M. BALBES
Having LeVerne Fernandez and David Maryniak as mentors had a tremendous effect on my academic success and confi- dence … Without them, I would not have
been as successful as I was, becoming the first person
in my family to graduate from college.
ASSOCIA TE OF APPLIED SCIENCE 2015,
AUGUS TA TECHNICAL COLLEGE (GA)
“Mentor” is a popular buzzword these days (right up there
with “selfie”, “Big Data”, and “mindfulness”). Perhaps you have
been assigned a mentor as part of a scholarship, internship, or
class. Perhaps you have been urged to find a mentor for professional development.
But why are mentors such hot commodities? What is a mentor, how do you find one, and what do you do with one once
you’ve found him or her? Read on to learn how to make mentoring relationships work for you.
What is a mentor, really?
A true mentor is someone who is a combination of an advisor,
role model, and counselor. A mentor is not someone who should
tell you what to do, but rather is someone who listens, shares his
or her wisdom, and asks questions that help you figure out what
path is best for you. A good mentor is invaluable in helping you
advance your academic and professional career.
A mentoring relationship generally develops over time, and
involves help, advice, information, encouragement, honesty, support, and motivation (and sometimes even tough love). Unlike
advising, mentoring is more about personal growth than solving
immediate problems. The mentee often leads the relationship,
rather than the mentor. While a mentorship may resemble a
friendship, both parties maintain a professional distance.
Mentors provide both guidance and accountability — helping
you figure out what to do, and how and when to do it. By setting
personal deadlines and communicating them to your mentor,
you will be more likely to meet them. Your mentor may be able
to point you to resources, such as scholarships and internships.
He or she can be helpful when you need to choose a research
project or decide which professional conferences to attend,
whether to pursue graduate school or a job, which technical and
interpersonal career skills you should acquire, and how you can
gain relevant experience.
What qualities should you look for in a mentor? You want
someone who has enough professional and life experience to
be able to help you, and who is also willing and able to provide
candid feedback about your performance. It must be someone
whom you respect and trust. Most importantly, a mentor must
be someone who is a good listener, willing to be a sounding
board, and ready to spend the time needed to mentor you.
How do I find a mentor?
To find a mentor, start going to places where professional chemists are, and talk to them. Faculty can be a good place to start.
“Stop by during office hours and ask questions about homework problems,” suggests Pamela Clevenger, an instructor at
Itawamba Community College (Fulton, MS).
“A prime time for talking to chemistry faculty is before, during, or after laboratory sessions, when the atmosphere is more
relaxed and individualized,” advises Joan Sabourin, professor