Having good mentors is critical in any career. In academia, most researchers train under just one or two graduate and/or postdoctoral mentors; however, little is known about how this mentorship affects the mentee's career. Liénard et al. analyzed an open-access database of 18,856 researchers to determine if graduate or postdoctoral mentors have a greater impact on trainee careers. Results show that although postdoctoral mentors were more influential in trainees' success, the breadth of training between graduate and postdoctoral mentors was also predictive. Trainees working under mentors with disparate expertise, who were then able to integrate both sets of expertise into their own work, had higher levels of academic success.
After earning two advanced degrees, completing three postdocs, working in three countries, and finally reaching the stage when I am setting up my own lab, I realize that three lessons taught by three great mentors have influenced how I think about doing science. These lessons, each of which came at just the right time in my career, have helped me probe new intellectual territories and enjoy my work. Looking back, I appreciate the way that my mentors supported my development as a researcher and imparted valuable advice that still guides how I approach my work and career. Now, as I am moving into the role of adviser myself, I hope to be able to pass these lessons on to my current and future students. "Three great mentors have influenced how I think about doing science."
Tobias Harris, NBA athlete and forward for the Detroit Pistons, knows a thing or two about the importance of mentorship. Harris is a dedicated philanthropist, passionate mentor and creator of the Tobias Harris School of Business Basketball camp, a program designed to give kids entering grades 5-12 a fun and engaging experience in learning the fundamentals of basketball, along with invigorating workshops on careers, life-goals, self-esteem building and more. Below he outlines five tips professionals should keep in mind to get the most out of a relationship with your mentor. "Mentors can gain so much wisdom from really focusing on what their mentees are saying. Once a person knows you're truly listening, both parties will establish trust over time that will allow the mentee to open up and express themselves openly without fear of judgement."
Peer mentoring can provide support, facilitate collaborative problem solving, and build confidence. The NextGen Voices section "Quality mentoring" (5 October, p.22) demonstrates how traditional hierarchical mentoring relationships, when they work, can be sources of incredible psychosocial and practical support. However, when these relationships are not strong, they can hinder or even harm mentees (1, 2). The unequal power dynamic of a senior mentor (typically one who is male and white) and junior mentee can be especially problematic for individuals belonging to systematically marginalized identity groups (such as women, people of color, and individuals with disabilities) and can exacerbate a sense of isolation for the mentee (3). Furthermore, mentees, more than mentors, say that mentoring relationships should directly address cultural diversity (4).
The Pittsburgh organization Hello Neighbor arranges events where resettled refugees can meet members of the community. In order to make the refugees who were moving into their area feel welcome, Pittsburgh couple Richard Gartner and Kristin Garbarino signed up to mentor a mother and three children from Rwanda. They took them to an outdoor arts festival, where they indulged in the most traditional American fair food: funnel cakes. It's the type of interaction Sloane Davidson, a former refugee resettlement worker, had in mind when she formed Hello Neighbor. Her Pittsburgh-based network matches refugees with "mentor" families to help them become better accustomed to life in the U.S. Nine refugee resettlement agencies around the U.S. set up arrival families with a place to live, furniture and basic household items.