Anyone can be your mentor: a teacher, a senior, the medical professional that you’re shadowing, etc. There is always something to learn from an individual and mentors are arguably one of the best ways to learn from as they have a lot of experience.
We’ve been very blessed to have had some amazing mentors when applying to medical school. Now that we’ve made it in, we became mentors in various Widening Participation initiatives to give back and support our future colleagues. Through this, we realised that a common issue mentees appear to have is they don’t know how to effectively utilise and make the most out of mentors.
This post is to give some tips to those of you who are being mentored (including ourselves!). To put it simply, you have to be a good mentee and ask the right questions to make the most of the wealth of information around you. We’ll explain what we mean by this below.
Be respectful! This is something so basic yet so easily overlooked. Some things you must do include:
Basic etiquette: using “please” and “thank you” will actually make a huge difference to the tone of your message.
Address them by their correct title! Especially important if you’re contacting them for the first time. You may be asked to just use their first names later on but it pays off initially to be overly respectful than to come across as rude.
Use their names in correspondence whether it is by text messages, emails or conversations! Dale Carnegie (an American writer) believed that one’s name is the sweetest sound they can hear. Using your mentor’s name shows them that you actually remember it, and it helps strengthen the connection between you two.
Don’t contact your mentor at inappropriate times of the day. As a general rule of thumb, only contact them during office hours (9am-5pm) and try to account for possible time differences.
Don’t treat your mentor as if they owe you something. These people are offering you their time and expertise, usually for free. You have to recognise that they have other commitments, so they may not get back to you immediately. Be patient! If you’ve not received a response from them after quite some time however, follow up with them perhaps by sending another email. Do this in a considerate way though.
Be enthusiastic! A mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street, like all other interpersonal relationships. The more you put into your interactions with your mentor, the more you’ll get out of it! Showing your mentor that you are keen and proactive will encourage them to put in even more effort into supporting you. No mentor wants to waste their time on someone who is not into what they’re doing!
COMMUNICATE. If you think you need help with something or something is troubling you, let your mentor know! Mentors can’t offer any support if they don’t know you need it.
Do the basic research first! Simple questions that can be answered with a Google search should be researched in your own time. Use your mentor’s time to ask questions that can’t be directly answered online! Good sources of information include official university websites or student blogs (like ours!), YouTube and more.
Ask your mentor about their experiences! These are usually things that you can’t easily find out about online. For example, if your mentor is supporting you with your med school application, asking them about this can then lead you on to some very valuable advice and resources. Try to learn from your mentor’s experiences as they can provide unique insights.
Be specific about what help you need! Granted, you may need general advice sometimes but try to be as specific as you can. For example, with your personal statement, you might ask how you can incorporate your work experience into it more naturally. This gives your mentor some idea what direction their support should go so they can actually target what you’d like to improve.
Don’t ask your mentor to make decisions for you! Mentors are here to help but it is your life in the end. Asking them to do this puts them in a very difficult position. For example, they can’t decide which medical schools you should apply to but they can direct you to resources that guide you on this and offer advice on what you should consider when deciding.
Never blame your mentor if they don’t have the answers to your questions! Mentors are there to share their experiences but it’s normal for them to not know every single thing. For example, if you ask us about the number of international places for a medical school that has not published any info about this, they’re unlikely to know! Mentors may be able to guide you to find the answer (eg: advise you to email the admissions office) but it’s not their job to actively seek answers on your behalf!
And that was a quick runthrough of tips to help you make the most of mentor support and be an outstanding mentee! We hope that you found this useful because writing this definitely helped us articulate the practices that have proved to be effective with our own mentors.
Do make sure to keep in touch with your mentor even after their support isn’t needed anymore. This can be simply thanking them for their help again or sharing good news with them on how their support has helped! They’ll be glad to hear about your success and this can lead to a long-term friendship between both of you.
Make sure to share this post so more people can benefit from it! As always, we can be contacted on Instagram. Would you like to see a post on finding a mentor in the future?