How to find the mentor of your dreams

College mentorship premed
By Jahnavi

Are you a pre-med student feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to turn? You may consider finding a mentor to help you on your journey. Having a mentor can be an invaluable tool to help you stay motivated, gain advice, and support your success.

Here are a few tips to help you find the right mentor for you. 

First, think about what kind of mentor you need or want.

Mentors come in many shapes and sizes and serve different purposes. Do you want someone who can provide feedback regarding your future career plans? Someone who can advise you on academic goals and help you stay on track with your current studies? Or do you want someone who can provide emotional support to help you deal with the stressors of life?

Once you have a clear idea of the type of mentor you’re looking for, it’s time to start your search.

Think about the people in your life who may have experience and knowledge that can benefit you. Talk to your professors, family members, and friends. Ask them if they know anyone who would be a good fit for you as a mentor. You can also turn to communities that you may be a part of. If you’re still in college, many student groups have an alumni network that may even have a built-in mentor program. Which identity groups do you identify as being a part of? Whether it’s women in medicine, first-generation students, a regional or state club, or more, explore joining one of these communities and identify whether there is a mentorship program in place.

Already graduated from college? Reach out to the university alumni club in your city. There may be opportunities for formal or informal mentorship. Many alumni clubs also host events where alumni speak on their careers and expertise. Attending these events is helpful for your career development, and if you find that you connect with a speaker and their journey, consider dropping them a line. You never know what could lead to a long-term connection.

When you have identified potential mentors, it is time to reach out and make contact.

Introduce yourself, explain why you are looking for a mentor, and ask if they are willing to meet for an informational interview. This is your opportunity to get to know the mentor and decide whether or not they are the right fit for you.

*Jahnavi Jumpstart: When you’re making that initial ask for an informational interview, designate a specific length of time for a meeting: 20-30 minutes is usually reasonable. This bounds the interaction and increases the likelihood that they will accept your request. This goes without saying, but always ensure that you are polite and respectful of their time. If they say they are not open to mentees at this time, thank them and move on to the next.

Come prepared to the informational interview with questions you have about their career journey. It’s also helpful to have a sense of your ask. Are you looking for a regular monthly meeting? Help looking over your CV? Connections to others in their field? Coming in with one or two specific asks will help you keep the conversation on track.

Once you’ve found a mentor, it is important to maintain regular contact within the guidelines that you discussed.

Make sure you keep in touch and discuss any issues or topics that may arise. Meet with your mentor regularly and let them know how you’re progressing. This will help you stay on track and give your mentor the chance to offer advice and guidance.

*Jahnavi Jumpstart: Did you just win that thesis award or get a school acceptance? Send a quick note to your mentor! Exciting updates will keep them engaged and allows space for them to give their opinion on your overall trajectory.

One of the most important lessons I learned at Harvard was the importance of having a near-peer mentor alongside a career mentor.

Near-peer mentors are individuals that are anywhere from one to five years ahead of you in the field you’re interested in. I find that near-peer mentors can be immensely helpful in the minute details of mentorship, like scholarship opportunities and applications. They can also give you in-the-know details about that job opportunity or grad program that someone more distant from your stage of life may not be able to. Having a near-peer mentor (like many of us here at Cambridge Coaching!) is one of the most important things that you can do to set yourself up for success in whatever field you choose.

Finding a mentor can be an invaluable asset to a pre-med student.

Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from taking this important step. With a little effort and patience, you will be able to find the perfect mentor to help you reach your goals. Good luck! 

Jahnavi is an MD Candidate at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and an MPH Candidate at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Previously, she earned her BA in Neurobiology and Global Health and Health Policy at Harvard College.

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