About Mentoring

Both incoming graduate students and continuing graduate students can benefit from mentoring.

A mentor is defined by Webster's dictionary as, "a trusted counselor or guide." Many successful professionals have several mentors, who may be different people at different stages in their career. A mentor can be a faculty member, a professional in the field, or a peer. 

Resources on this page will help you find a mentor and educate yourself about professional networking.

Find a mentor and start a relationship

Since your advisor is also your supervisor (who grades and evaluates your progress) it is a good idea to find other individuals to support your success. Having a team of mentors may help you to achieve your professional goals and will provide support and advice throughout your career.

Find a mentor who you think will help you achieve the goals you have set for yourself. This might be someone in a position similar to one you'd like to have someday, or a person you feel comfortable talking with. You can find a mentor by:

  • Networking at Michigan Tech with faculty, staff, peers, and alumni
  • Networking at professional meetings
  • Connecting online to colleagues using social media like Linkedin or Google Scholar
  • Networking with faculty, staff, and alumni from your alma mater
  • Joining community organizations

Once you find an individual who might be a good mentor, schedule a time to meet and talk to them privately. This is a time to:

  • Talk about your career goals and how you think this individual might help you
  • See if they are willing to be a mentor
  • Determine how often they are able to meet with you
  • Discuss whether (and how often) you can contact them on the phone or e-mail
  • Explore suggestions for additional mentors

Every mentor will provide different expertise, but these are some things you might expect or ask from a mentor:

  • Professional feedback on your research and teaching
  • Constructive critiques of papers or presentations
  • Introductions to colleagues in your field
  • Reference letters for job applications
  • Respectful, supportive listening
  • Keeping information discussed confidential
  • Assistance navigating the paperwork and exams for graduate school

Be prepared when you meet with your mentor(s) to follow through on any promises you make. Keep in mind that the relationship should be mutually beneficial. Follow up with your mentor(s) on a regular basis so they know hhow your career is progressing. Find opportunities to thank or assist your mentor as appropriate.

Articles from the Chronicle (search for mentoring), presentations by Stephanie Adams and Howard Adams. 

A message from the Dean about peer mentoring

Both incoming graduate students and continuing graduate students can benefit from mentoring.

Mentoring of new, incoming graduate students can help to ensure that new students immediately feel included as full members of their department. Mentoring of continuing students can help them to achieve success as graduate students and ultimately as professionals in the career of their choice.

Both peer-mentoring programs and mentor/protégé relationships (between a faculty or staff member and a student) are helpful to graduate students.

Peer Mentoring

Peer mentoring is mentoring that takes place between peers, for example, between or among graduate students. When a new student arrives on campus, a peer mentor can help by:

  • welcoming the new student,
  • giving the student a tour of the department and related facilities,
  • introducing the student to faculty, staff, and other graduate students,
  • taking the student to events specifically designed for graduate students (including events hosted or sponsored by the University’s Graduate Student Government),
  • providing insight about departmental and University expectations for students,
  • helping the student understand departmental and university policies,
  • assisting the student in developing an understanding of the “culture” of the local area,
  • exposing the student to sources of support and resources for students, both on campus and in the community,
  • helping the student to get established in their new community (e.g., finding housing, a bank, a physician, or childcare) and
  • inviting the new student to participate in events (e.g., sports, concerts, lectures, and social events).

Departments or programs can promote peer-mentoring in many ways, included those listed below.

  • establishing a formal peer-mentoring program with written guidelines and clearly articulated expectations,
  • initially hosting a workshop to introduce current students to the concept of mentoring and the common expectations of participants in a peer-mentoring program (including confidentiality),
  • helping match current students with new students that have common interests,
  • identifying and notifying both returning and new students about who will mentor whom, prior to the new students arrival on campus,
  • bringing new and returning students together at the start of semesters and involving them in structured and enjoyable activities to help them get to know one another, and
  • hosting a panel or forum in which experienced graduate students can address questions posed by other graduate students (or even undergraduates).

Once a new student is fully engaged in her/his graduate program, the peer-mentor relationship may become less formal but it still serves a purpose. Even students who are far along in their graduate program find that having access to a peer mentor helps them to overcome both academic and personal hurdles.

Educate yourself, start networking, find support

Educate yourself

Start networking online

Network in your discipline

Some examples of professional societies for a variety of disciplines are below. Every discipline has one or more professional societies that host meetings on a regular basis.

Find support for underrepresented minorities