Although there have been many articles in the medical education literature about the qualities and aspects of a good mentor, the behaviors associated with being a good mentee are typically overlooked. I think mentorship should be seen as a “two-way” street where the quality of the mentorship is only as good as the effort put in by both the mentor and the mentee. There are several mentee behaviors that will likely help improve your relationship with your mentor.
When you are looking for a mentor, it is important to start with some honest self-reflection. Think about your goals/needs, ability to self-start, overall confidence, and attitudes towards work-life balance. Then you should decide how a mentor will complement these personal aspects to help you achieve your career and life goals. Anecdotally, many failed mentorship relationships are due to poor matching or disagreements about these needs and goals. Sometimes it is hard to determine how your mentor feels about all of these aspects during your initial meeting. If you eventually reach an impasse, please remember that mentorship relationships do not have to be for “life” and you will likely have many mentors over the course of your career as your mentorship needs continue to evolve. Even senior full professors still need mentors.
Once you find a mentor, it is important to prepare for these meetings. Everyone is always busy, but it can be hard for mentors to remember everything about you since mentorship meetings tend to be sporadic. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of your meeting reviewing where you left things off at the last meeting and outline what you would like to accomplish in this meeting. Most mentors will appreciate the direction and can structure their thoughts accordingly.
Finally, after your mentorship meetings, you should really cultivate the relationship by following-up on any remaining issues from your mentorship session. Your mentor will appreciate your dependability and also “staying in the loop” about your overall career progress. It also helps to prioritize regularly scheduled mentorship sessions so you both can continue to fine-tune your relationship together.
These are just some of the behaviors that are important for all mentees to maximize their mentorship relationship. The beauty of mentorship is that all mentees ultimately become mentors themselves who volunteer their time to improve our specialties and institutions one person at a time.