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Mentorship Corner: Q&A

Do you have any tips for getting and keeping a professional mentor?


Dear Anonymous,

We hear time and again that mentorship is important in helping define career goals, achieving work/life balance, and many other issues, but there’s much less advice on how to have a successful mentorship relationship! Here are some themes from current research (and my personal experience):

  • Pick your own mentor (as opposed to participating in random assignments) based on your specialty experience and other mutual interests –you’ll be more invested in the process.
  • Mutually set clear expectations. This is one of the most important characteristics of successful mentorship relationships because without definition, it’s hard to evaluate and ensure that you’re progressing towards your goals (whether they’re career-specific, mental well being, etc.). Some possible suggestions including using the mentor to help with networking, helping you incorporate an extracurricular aspect (like health policy work) into your professional career, or guiding you in finding stress-management techniques.
  • Have mutual respect and active listening. Respect your mentor’s time (including their work deadlines, etc.) and be on time for meetings, phone calls, respond promptly to emails. Be an active listener when your mentor gives you advice. This can include reiterating and clarifying new goals or suggestions your mentor put forth or even summarizing the previous meeting and your actions in the interim at the next meeting.
  • Take your mentor’s advice. A medical career is often overwhelming, and it’s hard to find the time for extra activities. Sometimes you may even disagree with your mentor’s advice. However, consistently not following up on suggestions and action items will make your mentor reluctant to provide further advice “on deaf ears” and will lead your relationship to struggle. Keep an open mind and try ideas that you don’t think will work from time to time—mentors are meant to challenge us!

Best of luck,

Anna Zelivianskaia

Calling all residents and students!

The AMWA Mentorship Committee wants to answer all your questions regarding mentorship and life in medicine. You can now submit questions anonymously to be answered by attendings and current residents on any topic – work-life balance, residency hours, applications, etc. Please email them to Anna Zelivianskaia at and answers will be published monthly in the AMWA Newsflash!

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