Found your mentor? Now you’ll want to follow some of the best practices for mentees. Remember: your mentor has more experience and greater knowledge of how research works, but you are both responsible for making the relationship work. Here are a few tips for working effectively with your mentor:

  • Establish open lines of communication. Discuss how often you should meet with your research advisor. Ask how you should best communicate with her/him (email, phone, or hold on to questions until you can ask them in person). Try to schedule your meetings ahead of time to avoid putting it off until the last minute.
  • Talk about work style. Find out when your advisor would like to review your written work. Some faculty hate reading rough drafts and only want to see polished prose, while others want to see what you are writing early on.
  • Take responsibility for running meetings. Come prepared with a list of questions and also a list of what you’ve been working on and what you plan to work on over the next few weeks. After the meeting, email your mentor with a summary of the meeting. This helps your mentor keep track of what you’ve talked about.
  • Think of yourself as a scholar. Share what you’ve learned through participating in research conferences and working on papers. Your research advisor can give you feedback and help you develop your presentation abilities. By presenting in public forums now, you’ll also be representing your faculty mentor and your lab.
  • Keep your promises. If you’ve agreed that you’d email a weekly progress update, make a note of it and follow up in a timely manner. Show your advisor that you’re reliable and can keep track of small as well as big assignments.
  • Remember that your faculty advisor has multiple jobs. Faculty are busy individuals. They not only conduct research and teach but the serve on committees, write grants, and publish papers. It’s not your advisor’s job to keep track of you.  It is your job to help your advisor keep track of your progress.

Interested in learning more about how to build a good mentor-mentee relationship? Check out:

Working Effectively with your Research Mentor. By Rebecca Beals. McNair News. 3,1, Fall 2008. 9.

How to be a Good Mentee. By Tess MS Neal. Observer. Association for Psychological Sciences. 24, 2, February 2011.

University of Nebraska - Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies' resources on mentoring.

Adapted from Stanford University’s Undergraduate Research Programs office, University of Michigan Ann Arbor’s How to Get the Mentoring You Want, and University of Marquette’s Suggestions for Finding and Working with a Mentor.