Mentoring is a two-way street, and half of the responsibility for any mentoring relationship falls to the mentee. Below you will find some tips to aid you in working with your mentors.
- Develop a realistic plan. Discuss specific goals, deliverables, and expectations and check-in with your mentor periodically to reevaluate. Consider writing a personal project timeline that you can adjust mid-semester and meet with your mentor often to review your progress. Your UROP proposal can serve as a blueprint for the term, but regular check-ins with your mentor about your progress and needs is always a wise idea – initial plans may sometimes need adjustment.
- Discuss expectations and goals at the beginning of the relationship: This ensures that you are going in the right direction and you are getting what you want and need. Your mentor can only help you achieve your goals, if they know what your goals are. Be sure to talk with your mentor about what you hope to learn and the skills you hope to develop through the UROP. Should you wish to shift your focus as you progress in the research, be sure to discuss your changing interests with your mentor and talk about available options.
- Maintain active communication with your mentor. Be available and responsive. Let your mentor know your schedule, how best to reach you, and find out the same from them. What hours is your mentor available for consultation, especially if the project involves some independent research that you conduct remotely. Should you need to be out of lab due to illness or to focus on classwork – how does your mentor prefer you let them know?
- Demonstrate commitment. As a mentee, it’s important for you to take initiative. One of the ways you can demonstrate commitment is by keeping to the lab schedule you established with your mentor. Another is to complete assigned research according to the timelines you and your mentor establish. By maintaining active contact with your mentor, especially if unable to keep to your schedule or timeline, yo can show that you are interested in the mentoring relationship. Likewise, responding to your mentor in a timely manner demonstrates that you also have respect for their time and effort.
- Be curious. Don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to explain something in more depth or inquire about ways you might advance in the field. You never know, they could invite you to a professional conference or offer you the chance to present your research at a group meeting or another venue!
- Be prepared to talk about yourself and ask questions to clarify your understanding. Your mentor can only provide guidance and support based on their understanding of your interests and needs. Sharing your thoughts, feelings and experiences helps them get to know you better and connect you to the appropriate contacts and resources.
- Communicate needs and concerns. Communicating what you want to get out of the relationship allows your mentor to better understand how they can help you develop and grow as a researcher. If you feel comfortable, do let your mentor know if you are struggling with something. They may have gone through a similar experience and be able to provide advice or an opportuity to talk through options or resources to pursue.
- Respect boundaries. It is unrealistic to expect your mentor to be available 24/7 or to feel comfortable talking about anything and everything. Respect boundaries around communication you and your mentor agree upon, and understand the differences between mentoring and other kinds of helping relationships. Consult UROP staff or other MIT resources for concerns that may fall outside of issues with which your mentor can assist.
- Show appreciation. Your mentor is trying to help you develop as a scientist/engineer and it can mean a great deal if you show that you appreciate them and their guidance. A thank you note can go a long way! Is your mentor particularly outstanding? If so, consider nominating them for the Outstanding UROP Mentor Award!