How to Find a Faculty Mentor

A faculty mentor has the most vital role in preparing you for your future career.  The American Psychological Association lists characteristics of effective mentoring to include:

  • Acts as an experienced role model
  • Provides acceptance, encouragement, and moral support
  • Provides wisdom, advice, counsel, coaching
  • Acts as a sponsor in professional organizations, supports networking efforts
  • Assists with the navigation of professional settings, institutions, structures, and politics
  • Facilitates professional development
  • Challenges and encourages appropriately to facilitate growthProvides nourishment, caring, and protection
  • Integrates professional support with other areas such as faith, family, and community
  • Accepts assistance from mentee in mentor’s professional responsibilities within appropriate limits
  • Enjoys the opportunity to pass on their wisdom and knowledge and collaboration with early career professionals

Selecting the best faculty mentor requires some thought and investigation.  Here are some useful questions for consideration.

Questions for yourself to consider
  • What are my strengths?
  • What type of training do I want?
  • What skills do I need to develop?
  • What kinds of research or projects will engage me?
  • How much independent versus team work do I want to do?
  • What type of career do I want to pursue?
Questions to ask current/past members of the research group
  • How often do you meet with your mentor?
  • How accessible is the mentor for guidance?
  • Are lab meetings supportive? or confrontational?
  • How are authorship/project ownership handled?
  • How long do postdocs usually stay?
Questions for your future mentor 
  • How many postdocs have you mentored, and what careers are they in today? 
  • Can you put me in touch with your previous postdocs?
  • What are your expectations of a postdoc?
  • How long is financial support guaranteed? 
  • Will there be opportunities for practice in grant writing, teaching and mentoring, oral presentations, and reviewing manuscripts?