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Advocating For Yourself: Getting the Mentoring You Need

Takeaways from the GSAS Futures’ alumni panel discussion: ‘Advocating for Yourself: Getting the Mentoring You Need’ (2021)

  1. Mentoring is something more than advising. The role of an advisor tends to be limited to academic progress: advisors help guide us through program requirements. The role of a mentor, however, is more involved: mentors work to advance our academic, professional, and personal goals, and thus concern themselves with our individual growth and well being. Mentors provide support, share expertise, and take an interest in our success. As a result, the starting point of a strong mentoring relationship is active listening.
  2.  When searching for a mentor, consider the ‘three T’s of good mentoring’. A good mentor is someone you can trust, someone who is generous with their time, and someone who will be transparent with you.
  3.  Mentoring relationships require communication—and even communication about communication! Whether your mentor is deeply involved in your progress or less involved, they need to learn from you what is helpful and what you need to succeed. Your mentor needs you to take the initiative to communicate what a good mentoring relationship would look like. For example, if increased communication is something that you would benefit from, this is something your mentor needs you to communicate. Communication is the first and most necessary step for receiving the benefits of good mentoring.
  4.  Mentoring involves negotiating. Both parties need to engage in active listening, and both parties need to have an interest in reaching an agreement. A one-sided mentoring relationship (i.e., a relationship where only one party wants to reach an agreement) is not a mentoring relationship at all.
  5.  Maintaining a strong mentoring relationship requires continually re-evaluating and re-learning what a mentoring relationship should look like. Mentoring relationships are meant to be open and flexible: the role of a good mentor should change as our goals and circumstances change. We need to ask ourselves again and again: what kind of support do I need from my mentors right now? Are our previously established goals and objectives still applicable? Where am I moving now and what guidance can my mentor provide?
  6.  Take advantage of resources available throughout the Fordham GSAS community—e.g., the GSAS mentoring network, peer-to-peer mentoring sessions, counseling and psychological services, etc.—to get the most out of your mentoring relationships. To appropriate a cliché: it takes a village to make a successful graduate!