Here are five tips for finding a mentor who can help you be successful:
- Look for role models. A mentor is often someone who has a career you hope to emulate. For example, seek out a professor with a research project in an area you’re interested in or a physician you admire and would like to learn from. Let your pre-health advisor know that you’re interested in finding a mentor and see if they have any recommendations.
- Build relationships. As you shadow, volunteer, or work in a medical setting, you’ll likely come across physicians who have the potential to become your mentor. Take initiative and ask for extra responsibilities that will allow them to get to know you better. You can also express your interest in their work and ask if they’d be willing to have lunch or get coffee with you. It takes time to create connections and physicians have incredibly busy schedules, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately.
- Ask the right questions. Learn about your mentor’s path to medicine, what their challenges were, and what they learned. Don’t ask questions that you can easily find the answers to online or from your pre-health advisor. It’s a good idea to come with prepared questions, especially if they can help you make a decision about something. A mentor can offer advice, guidance, and encouragement, but don’t expect them to do all of the work for you.
- Be open. Different mentors can offer different things. Some may be good at helping you network and find new opportunities. Others may challenge you to think differently or give you a nudge you didn’t realize you needed. It can be beneficial to have multiple mentors with different strengths and points of view.
- Maintain the connection. Mentors continue to be important as you enter medical school and start thinking about your specialty choice and applying to residency. You’ll likely find new mentors along the way, but it can be beneficial to keep in touch with your early mentors as you progress through medical school.
In a few years, you may be a mentor for a pre-med undergrad at your alma maters.