As part of my post on 5 powerful goals for pre med students, I recommended finding a mentor. Mentors can help you develop leadership ability, inspire you or help you become a better student. But how do you find a solid mentor?
Here are a few suggestions to help you brainstorm about where to look for a mentor and how to approach a potential mentor.
Where To Look For A Mentor
Your School Mentoring Program. This one is easy. Many schools have a mentoring program set up that will connect you with local professionals in fields you are interested in. At my college the mentoring program is affiliated with the school of business but they had no problem finding a doctor with tons of global health experience to be my mentor. Look into programs at your school.
Leadership positions. If you have participated in any leadership positions in college you most likely had an advisor or supervisor. If this is someone you look up to and have a positive relationship with they can make a great mentor.
Professors. Hopefully you have had some great professors in college. Why not ask one you respect to be a mentor?
Anyone else you look up to. An older fellow employee. Your family doctor. The only requirements are someone you respect and get along with well.
How To Approach A Potential Mentor
The first step is to consider what you´re looking to get out of a mentoring relationship. Are you looking to learn more about being a physician? Is there a particular area you´re looking to grow in? Do you have a personal goal and want someone to hold you accountable for it?
How you ask someone to be a mentor depends on the current relationship you have with them. Face to face interactions are always best. If you feel comfortable, set up a time to share some coffee or meet in their office. If not, an email will suffice. Either way, choose your words carefully.
Ideally you explain why you are looking for a mentor, what you are looking to get out of a mentoring relationship and why you are choosing this specific person. Keep it to the point.
Finally be sure not to corner someone into making a decision on the spot. Make it clear they have time to make a decision.
Here is a brief example of what you could say in an email or in person:
“I understand you are a very busy person but I have a request for you to think about. I highly respect you as a physician and see you as someone I could learn a lot from about medicine. Would you consider meeting once or a twice a month to talk about life in medicine?”
I know this may be hard to do. You have to put yourself out there and it may be awkward. If you ask and they say no, it may create some tension for a little while.
Just remember this: It is worth it.
A little time and effort now could result in a influential relationship for a long time. Go for it.