As promised, here is part 2…
6. LISTEN: This is important both for the mentor and mentee. There is wisdom in those who allow and respect authority in their lives and are not above reproach. Stay humble and hear your mentor’s point before dismissing it. It may not make sense at first or it may never make sense but give it some time. It is okay to respectfully disagree or get opinions from someone else. A good mentor should understand this and not be overly domineering. The both of you are fallible and should acknowledge that. If they don’t respectfully listen to your point of view as well then there may be a problem. Listening is essential but does not mean you must obey. There is more than one way to skin a cat. What worked for your mentor may not work for you so use your God-given brain to discern and realize what will work best for you.
7. PULL YOUR WEIGHT: As already mentioned, most mentors are busy with their own lives and also are being mentored by others. You need to put forth the effort to research and meet mini goals in order to build your mentor’s trust so they can invest in you. Show them that you are serious and not just wasting their time. Determine which relationships are formal and which are more casual. For those that are more formal it may not be a bad idea to come up with a schedule. For instance, ask them if you can write or call them once a month or every other month. Pick a time frame that works for the both of you, that doesn’t burden or conflict with each other’s schedules and still allows them to remember who you are.
8. DO NOT BE A VICTIM: You will run into multiple “haters” (i.e. doubters) during your journey so there is no room for you to become your biggest hater. We all have obstacles in life but these should be used to build character not destroy it. Don’t let your race, gender, beliefs or environment hold you back. Don’t think you have it “worse than everyone else” because you don’t know what the next person had to face in their lives. I’ve met children of medical doctors who I was tempted to think they had it easy but when I hear some of their stories involving parents who were always working and never around and the high expectations placed on them it changed my opinion. Remember that there are others who have walked down your path and paved the way so find them and learn from them (even if you have to read their autobiographies). If you are struggling with some issues and have someone you can trust as a mentor, don’t be afraid to share them. Your mentor may be able to relate or empathize with you. The earlier the better so you can deal with the obstacle and get moving. Life won’t slow down for you and a mentor left in the dark may give up on you.
9. STAY CONNECTED: You are the driver on the mentor-mentee bus. A good mentor will likely check on you every so often but don’t expect them to. Send your mentors updates once in a while to let them know you are serious and progressing. Forming a network is critical and will help you throughout life in more ways than you can imagine right now. Don’t burn bridges. Also, do not feel as though you have to stick with one person. A good mentor should actually point you to others as well. You may eventually surpass your mentor’s ability to provide quality advice and may even become on par or superior in knowledge in that area but do not simply break that bond. There is something to be said about the experience of the mentor. Again, never be above reproach. If you are wise, you are better off than a foolish king who won’t listen to advice. Allow these relationships to shift as you grow. For example, your parent(s) are often there and willing to provide advice. However, when they can’t in a particular area, hopefully they will at least humbly respect and offer support. They play a huge role throughout our lives but this role should not be static and must evolve. Both sides must allow this to take place, otherwise issues will arise. The same is so for an academic or career adviser. Your role is to get to where they are and not always stay under them. A good mentor realizes this and won’t keep you under their wings forever but trust they have provided you with what you need to know and let you fly. It is your responsibility to keep them updated.
10. STEP UP AND GIVE BACK: I have some amazing role models/mentors in my life but it wasn’t always easy finding them. Innovative platforms are now available (such as www.diversemedicine.org) to allow many serious students to mentor others and be mentored themselves right in the comfort of their homes. This doesn’t solve all of the disparities out there but provides a means to reach most backgrounds and socioeconomic classes. There is now less and less room for excuses to be made. We all serve as mentors already to our children, younger siblings or friends whether we know it or not but our reach can be so much further. Especially given that there are many misguided teenagers out there, I strongly recommend you actively find others to mentor in your daily life. Mentoring others also allows you to grow yourself. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone give back.
I am more than grateful for the mentors in my life. Again, I remind myself why this is the most important topic in life. As I hear of the recent tragedy involving the young teen that was shot dead and look at the violence that plagues the Middle East I see so many missed opportunities to change the world for the better. Even as I look on my desk right now I have a few books by inspiring authors that have opened my eyes in many ways and encouraged new paths in my life. As I read through the book of Ecclesiastes this morning and made sense of Solomon’s wisdom I appreciate this topic even more.