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Mentoring More Efficiently and Sustainably

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… February 12, 2024
An image of two people at a table working on a document together. Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash

Mentoring is essential for the next generation of scientists. It can also be exhausting when you are managing largen mentoring responsibilities on top of your everyday work.  The Harvard Business Review offers five strategies to help you manage mentorship efficiently and sustainably throughout your career. These are summarized below, but the full article can be read here: How to Mentor More People and Not Get Burned Out. 

1. Team-Based Mentorship:

When faced with numerous mentees, the burden of individual mentorship can become daunting. Divide your mentees into teams, consisting of three to four individuals with varying levels of experience. Empower the team by assigning a lead mentee with the most expertise. This approach promotes semi-autonomous operation, where teams can meet independently, fostering a supportive environment. Senior members learn valuable mentoring skills early in their careers, while less-experienced members benefit from a readily accessible "go-to" person.

2. Set Clear Expectations:

Establishing expectations early on is crucial for a successful mentor-mentee relationship. Create mentorship contracts outlining specific expectations, such as response times to emails, meeting frequencies, and discussion boundaries. This not only helps avoid onboarding uncommitted mentees but also sets a standard for when to end a mentorship relationship. Granting mentees a defined number of opportunities to demonstrate commitment allows for flexibility in your approach based on individual circumstances.

3. Leverage Technology:

For mentors receiving a high volume of requests, technology can be a valuable ally. Schedule fixed times for web-based signups, reducing the scheduling burden. Utilize group meetings, allowing multiple mentees to meet simultaneously, fostering mutual learning. Leverage technology further by recording videos answering frequently asked questions, deepening conversations and serving as an initial test of commitment. Sharing this content online expands your reach and showcases your mentorship efforts.

4. Brand Your Mentorship:

Institutions often overlook the time and energy mentors invest. Strategically brand your mentorship efforts to align with institutional priorities. Highlighting mentee successes through social media builds your local and national reputation. Passionate mentees become ambassadors, indirectly aiding recruitment efforts. Showcase mentee achievements within your organization to amplify your team's status. Establishing a reputation as a mentor capable of cultivating excellence is invaluable.

5. Hold Organizations Accountable:

True commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion requires organizational investment in grassroots mentorship initiatives. Institutions must recruit a diverse pool of mentors, avoid disproportionately assigning tasks to underrepresented managers, and establish objective metrics for evaluating mentorship. Financial resources should be allocated to support and develop effective mentors, recognizing the long-term impact of proper mentorship compared to superficial team-building activities.

The legacy of our careers is deeply rooted in the relationships we nurture and the careers we cultivate. To achieve meaningful end-of-career goals, we must transform mentorship into a practical and efficient tool for both mentors and mentees. Hopefully some of these strategies will make mentorship more sustainable throughout your career.

The Waiting Season - How to Cope

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… February 26, 2024
Image of hands over a laptop with a watch on left wrist. Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Waiting for news about our future, whether that be about grad or med school, a new job, or a health diagnosis, can be hard to tolerate. With it often comes feelings of anxiety, fear of the unknown, or worry about potential news we’re not hoping for. These feelings are often intense and highly uncomfortable so we can find ourselves coping with them by distracting, numbing, avoiding, or constantly checking our devices for any new information that may have come in the last few minutes. This can sometimes feel like a new-found anxiety. But instead of disconnecting from those unhelpful responses, we often find ourselves pulled in even tighter towards them because our persistent pattern of worry and checking becomes an allusion of control, giving small reinforcements that subdue our anxiety or fear, even if only momentarily. We all know this is not helpful, and in some instances it even causes significant strains on wellbeing, relationships, and productivity at work. So, what can we do better manage the discomfort that comes with waiting for important news:

  1. Focus on your locus on control. Note where you have control and where you don’t. When you notice yourself naturally being pulled toward the worry of what you can’t control, come back to yourself and practice statements such as: “I may not like what I’m feeling right now but this will pass and I will get through this.” Ask yourself: “What is in my control that I can shift my attention toward in this moment?” It is normal to feel at a loss when asking ourselves this question. However, this  can be something as simple as how we’re caring for our mind, body, spirit and relationships

  2. Connect with supportive people. Engage with people you see and treat you as a whole human; not someone who focuses on your work, productivity, or the outcome of what you’re waiting on.

  3. Prescribe yourself "worry time". Schedule in deliberate time where you allow your mind to worry and think through the worst-case scenarios that keep you up at night. Journal about these thoughts or share them openly with a trusted other but save them for a specific time and place. You will find that if you stick to your prescribed time that the persistent worrying throughout the day that hinders attention and focus may decrease. 

  4. Rest, nourish, and move your body everyday. Schedule in and prioritize these actions the same way that you schedule important meetings in your workday. There are on-going benefits of prioritizing your wellbeing in this way.

  5. Reconnect with the present through a PAUSE, RESET, NOURISH Exercise below or Grounding Skills
    • Pause - Check in with your internal experiences or how your body is feeling at the present moment.  Practice square breathing, 7-11 breathing, 4-7-8 breathing to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. 
    • Reset - Actively do something to help you feel steadier, more calm, confident or focused on your next task. Be kind to yourself and remember that waiting is difficult and unsettling at times.
    • Nourish - Soak in something positive that replenishes your mind-body-heart-soul-or spirit. Turn your focus towards something that helps you remember your own strength and resilience or reminds you to take time to tend to yourself. You may ask yourself, “What do I need to nourish myself right now?”