I have been thinking a bit about mentors lately. I just read Pat Thomson’s blog on them which inspired me to write this one.
They seem to be that faery guide that will reveal the secrets of the magical kingdom (sorry I’ve been watch Maleficent with my daughter). Everyone else seems to have met one but I can’t seem to find any. Maybe they are at the bottom of my garden?
I have plenty of mentors, they just flit in and out of my life. They are generous and supportive. They give me good advice or at least advice that gets me thinking about how to make my own way in the world of academia.
I recently asked a senior colleague how I should go about approaching an academic in my field that I would love to have as a mentor. I have engaged with this academic in the past and he was kind and very generous. Seemed like the perfect mentor to court. The senior colleague told me:
Keep writing to yourself about you and [said academic]. [He] is ok but he is not your solution. You are your solution. Main thing – separate, get distance between you and everyone else. If you look like other peeps… you will disappear.
All of a sudden, I had a mentor moment. Someone unexpected challenged me and encouraged me all in one email. I didn’t want to impose so I thanked him for his advice but warned him that if he keeps helping, I will keep asking. His reply?
🙂 good — a good sign
I have had a few moments like these. I have just emailed kind colleagues for advice and it has been freely given. I haven’t signed them up to a contract, though.
I study transitions, and at the moment I am working on transitions to the workplace (namely early career teachers to schools). I have found from some of the literature that the “grand mentor” doesn’t really exist either. People have lots of mentors. I have identified four areas where you can find one. I think that if you get all four working well, you will be pretty set. Here’s a model I’m thinking through.
In essence, we can find our mentors officially and unofficially. Would love your feedback.