The beginning of your career can bring emotions of joy, excitement, and a touch of nerves. One way to alleviate this feeling is through seeking out a physician mentor. Mentorship can be critical in helping you assimilate into your new work enviornment more easily, establish routines, and answer questions that may arise.
Laura Halpin, M.D., and the American Medical Association (AMA), in a Feb. 13 report, laid out 12 tips for new physicians in locating and maximizing the resources a mentor can provide.
1) Identify what you want
“If you’re the kind of person who finds having someone to bounce ideas off of, having someone to talk through advice about things and having someone help you understand what it’s going to be like at that next step and make decisions— keep that in mind when looking for a mentor,” Halpin said. “For example, you would want a mentor “who could meet with you every one or two months just to give guidance.”
2) Be open to having more than one mentor
Halpin suggests searching for more than one mentor throughout your career. Building a strong relationship with multiple mentors will allow you to learn as much as possible regarding a wide range of topics.
3) Find a mentor you admire
When searching for a mentor, find someone you admire, or someone who holds achievements you too would like to emulate.
“Sometimes it can start off as just someone who you admire—someone who seems to have it together, is doing what you want to do someday and has a career that they seem happy in,” Halpin said, noting “there are a ton of impressive people at medical schools.”
4) Find a mentor you are comfortable with
A mentor can be much more than someone whom you seek advice from. A mentor can also be a rock to speak with, both on professional and personal matters. They can act as a guiding force throughout your career.
5) Put yourself out there
Utilize activities and meetings to speak with as many people as possible. For medical students this may include mentorship, career fairs, or clubs. For new physicians this may be as simple as introducing yourself to everyone early in your career. Creating these interactions can lead to meaningful connections amongst your colleagues.
6) Perform a follow-up with your mentor
While creating the initial interaction is critical, it is even more important to follow-up with a prospective mentor later. This can be done via phone call or email, asking to speak about the topic further. Don’t be afraid to continue the conversation.
7) If you are still in medical school, let your dean of students know you have connected with a mentor
“When you meet with the dean of students or someone in the student services offices to get to know them early on in medical school, let them know you would love to be connected with a physician who can help you with X, Y, Z,” Halpin said. “Ask if they “know of anyone who might be a good fit or if there is anyone on faculty who is doing this sort of work or has a certain career.”
8) Look for a mentor with similar interests
When selecting a mentor, be sure they hold similar interest to yourself. This can help build a bond and ensure they can provide you with knowledge relevant to your career.
9) Be open to who you meet
You never know when the opportunity to meet a mentor will arrive, so be sure to be open to speaking with anyone. If you receive a recommendation from a colleague, follow through and speak with that person, you may meet your next mentor.
10) Don’t limit your mentors to just physicians
A mentor can come from anywhere, not just physicians. As you meet others throughout your career, get to know professionals from a wide variety of industries, specialties, and backgrounds. A diverse group of mentors will provide you with access to a breadth of knowledge and advice in the future.
11) Offer to work on a shared topic
If you are a fellow, resident, or medical student, offer your services to assist a mentor on a topic of shared interest. This can be a presentation, a paper, a case study, or assistance with research.
“Mentors have all of this experience and knowledge, but they may not have the time. And as a student or a resident, even though it doesn’t feel like it, you have more time and more opportunities to build skills,” Halpin said.
12) Get involved with medical societies
Throughout your career, becoming a member or various medical societies and groups opens your opportunity to find a mentor or become one yourself.
“The American Medical Association and the county and state medical societies are great places to get involved in,” said Halpin. “There are a lot of people who are really happy and passionate about what they’re doing, so it’s easy to be inspired by them.”
Having a mentor to rely upon can be a relief when times get stressful in your career. Seek out those more experienced than yourself. Take advantage of the knowledge available through professional societies and those around you.
To read the full report from Halpin and the AMA, click here.