The relationships students form in graduate school can have a significant impact on their experience at the University and beyond its walls. Both incoming graduate students and continuing graduate students can benefit from mentoring.
A mentor can be a faculty member, a professional in a student's field of interest, or a peer. Many successful professionals have several mentors, who may be different people at different stages in their career. Mentors and professional contacts are often key to discovering and pursuing academic and professional goals.
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
- Check out Alumni-Student Networking for online networking with 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 how your career is progressing. Find opportunities to thank or assist your mentor as appropriate.
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 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
- The Chronicle of Higher Education—News, information, and jobs in the higher education field (subscription needed for some content; Michigan Tech students will have access when accessing from the Michigan Tech network)
- Individual Development Plan—Explore career possibilities for PhD students based on your skills, interests, and values
- Inside Higher Ed—News, information, and jobs in the higher education field
Start networking online
- Network with Michigan Tech alumni through LinkedIn
- MentorNet—e-mentoring for diversity in engineering and science
- Find a Linkedin group in your discipline
- Set up a Google Scholar profile
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.
- Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
- American Chemical Society (ACS)
- American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
- American Society for Mechanical Engineering (ASME)
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
- Modern Language Association (MLA)
- The Scientific Research Society - Sigma Xi
- Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA)
- Society of American Foresters
Find support for underrepresented minorities
- American Indian Science and Engineering Society
- Association for Women in Science
- ASU CareerWISE—resilience training for PhDs in STEM fields
- Black Women in Computing—online community for black women in computing fields
- Michigan AGEP Alliance—working together to advance underrepresented minorities in STEM fields
- National Society of Black Engineers
- SACNAS—Devoted to advancing Hispanics, Chicanos & Native Americans in Science
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
- Society of Women Engineers