How to choose a mentor

March 12, 2017
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Choosing a mentor is a very important step in reaching your long-term goals. Whether you want to own your own dental office, work in a hospital, or practice in a federally qualified health center (FQHC), it’ll be easier to get there if you “know the right people.” While that may sound cliché, it’s actually quite accurate. One of the most important things about mentorship is that you may need or want multiple mentors throughout your career. Some mentors may help you throughout your career while others may only be able to help you with one part of your career. Here are a few steps to follow when picking a mentor.

  1. Decide on your goals, both long-term and short-term. To be able to find the right mentor, you have to know what you want. Your short-term goals will help you reach your long-term goals. If your long-term goal is to be President of the ADA, your short-term goals may include becoming President of your local state dental association. Once you decide on your goals and the steps you’ll need to take, you can start looking for the right people to help you achieve them.
  2. Network with people who are doing what you want to do. Networking with whomever is currently in the position you want will give you the opportunity to learn about how they were able to get there. This will help you meet a variety of people who could potentially become mentors. To become President of the ADA, you’ll want to network with the current President and any Past Presidents. They’ll be able to give you the inside scoop as to how they got the position and what you can do to get there. The most important part of networking is getting their contact information. Shortly after you get their business card, maybe that evening or the next day, write a short note to yourself about what you discussed and where you met them. You can use this information in the very near future when you contact them to remind them of who you are and how you met.
  3. Form a relationship with your potential mentors. Sending an email is the easiest way to begin. Some things to include in the email: remind them when and where you met; if they spoke at a conference it would be nice to include a compliment about their speech or to thank them for speaking; close the email by asking them if they have some time to answer some questions about their position, whether that is via phone, email, or in person. Once they agree to help, this is when you can evaluate if they would make a good mentor. Some important qualities to look for in a mentor: honesty, willingness to help, passion, motivation, and kindness.
  4. Learn from your mentors and use them to achieve your goals. One of the best parts of having a mentor is being able to learn from their mistakes; this can help you to streamline your path to success. You can compare your short-term goals to the path your mentor took to make sure that you’re heading in the right direction and not missing any key steps. Your mentor can introduce you to other people that could become your mentors as well.

Finding a mentor may be difficult but there is no limit to the number of mentors you can have. Once you find a mentor, it is important to keep in touch with them, even if they are no longer able to “mentor” you anymore; you never know when you may change your long-term goals and they may be able to help you again. Lastly, as you get closer to attaining your long-term goals and may still need mentors, someone could want you to be their mentor, which in my mind, would be a pretty big deal.

About Maeve Daly: Maeve Daly is a third year dental student at the University of New England College of Dental Medicine in Portland, ME. She is originally from Ann Arbor, MI and received a BS in Biology from the University of Michigan. In her spare time, Maeve enjoys reading, baking, and watching football – Go Blue!