Tips for Good Mentorship for Trainees

Tips for Good Mentorship for Trainees
Evan Shereck, MD on behalf of the Physicians Workforce Working Group of the
Systems Capacity Initiative
Good mentorship is the key to success for any career, and certainly for hematopoietic cell
transplantation. The benefits from mentorship can be vast and include: more productive
careers, greater career satisfaction, increased professional networking, greater perceived worklife balance and enhanced resiliency skills. It’s important to note that as a career evolves and as
one networks more and engages in more research, it is possible to acquire mentors at other
institutions. Similarly, as one progresses in one’s career, mentorship needs may change or
evolve. Below are some tips for attaining a successful mentor relationship.
Self Reflection
 Take adequate time to consider your career goals, as your choice of mentor(s) will likely
be in large part driven by your goals and interests.
o Are you planning an academic career? If so, will it include research, teaching, or
primarily clinical care?
o Are you interested in a career in industry or government?
o Are you planning on entering private practice?
 If you are interested in research, what type? Are you seeking a clinical, translational, or
basic laboratory experience? Are you interested in health care outcomes or quality
 What do you have to offer to the mentee-mentor relationship?
o How much time can you commit? Do you have a particular skill set?
 What are your needs from a mentor?
o What do you want to get out of this relationship? Launch a successful research
career? Help with work-life balance? Guidance on career path?
Identifying and Selecting a Mentor
 Get recommendations
o Ask senior trainees about their mentors
o Ask faculty and program directors- they will know who has a good track record
for mentorship and may know who will be a good match
 Determine a mentor’s history of mentoring
o Did they have previous mentees?
o What did these mentees achieve from the relationship?
 If you are planning a research career, did previous mentees have first author
manuscripts? Pubmed search previous mentees. Were previous mentees successful in
obtaining funding?
 Know that It is often beneficial to have more than one mentor
o It is typically helpful to have a mentor who is not your research mentor. With
this approach the one mentor can help you navigate the process of working
with your research mentor
o You may want one mentor for career path, one for work-life balance, one for
 A good mentor has certain qualities, including being:
Enthusiastic and passionate about their career and work, as enthusiasm breeds
Available – it’s no good to pick the most senior person if they are always out of
town or are too busy to meet with you. How many mentees does the mentor
currently have? Will they have the time for you?
Will they help you identify a feasible research project and prepare abstracts and
Provides opportunities - will they introduce you to others in the field?
Prior to the first meeting of a potential mentor
 Ask junior faculty and fellows for advice on how they started their mentor/mentee
relationships and what topics they discussed with potential mentors.
 Establish the time/date of the meeting with either the mentor or their assistant. Put it
on your calendar and set a reminder.
 Send your curriculum vitae to your potential mentor, along with a note about your
interests and what you wish to discuss at the meeting so they can adequately prepare if
At the first meeting
 Be on time and dress in a professional manner.
 Introduce yourself and thank them for taking time to meet with you.
 Tell the mentor a bit about yourself, and explain your short and long term goals and
what you have to offer to the mentee-mentor relationship
 Ask about the mentor’s career.
o What research are they doing? You should know this from your pubmed search,
so ask questions that demonstrate your prior homework.
o What is their clinical interest? Again, this should be known so have specific
o Do they participate in teaching/education?
 What helped prepare the mentor for their job?
 What does the mentor enjoy/have satisfaction about their job?
 Did the mentor have a mentor?
 Inquire as to the amount of time the mentor has to devote to the relationship.
 How often would the mentor meet with you and in what setting?
 If seeking research training in preparation for an academic career, ask:
o Who would provide me with direct supervision and teaching in the laboratory or
clinical research setting?
o How many other members are in the research group? What are their various
o How would my research or scholarly project be chosen? Would I be able to have
input and/or choose between a number of possible projects? Or would I be
expected or allowed to identify a project independently?
o What careers have your mentees pursued? Have any fellows who have worked
with you gone on to independent research careers?
o How long do most trainees stay in your research group, and where do they
go when they leave your research group?
 After the first meeting, be sure to send a thank you note.
Tips for a Successful Relationship
 Clarify goals and values and reassess them over time.
 Be honest
o You may think you will disappoint the mentor by not agreeing with everything
they ask of you. However, you will disappoint them more if you say yes to
something of which you have no interest and put little effort into it. Commit
only to the projects you know you will have the time and enthusiasm to
 Follow through
o If the mentor gives you as assignment, perform it in a timely fashion.
 Ask for feedback
o Confirm that you value their opinion
 Set up follow-up meetings and be on time for them
 Know when to end a relationship
o Your research and/or clinical interests may have led your down a different path
o The relationship is no longer useful or productive
 Ask about other mentors
o Ask your primary mentor for advice on other faculty who may be beneficial to
you in other aspects of your work or life (e.g. someone balancing work with
young children, someone who has a similar clinical interest who can help with
career path, etc)
For more information visit the following website:
American Society of Hematology:
Detsky AD et al. Academic mentoring- How to give it and how to get it. JAMA. 2007 May
Lee S. Tips for Success as an academic clinical investigator. JCO. 2013 Feb; 31 (6): 811-13.
Zerzan JT et al. Making the Most of Mentors: A Guide for Mentees. Acad Med. 2009