Thursday, March 8, 2018

YSP career tips for success 1. Mentorship

The research committee of the World Stroke Organization, chaired by Professor Julie Bernhardt, put out a call to our Young Stroke Professional committee, chaired by Atte Meretoja for a top ten career tips list, and over the next 10 weeks we will be revealing these one by one for our global audience and they will eventually be hosted in their entirety on the WSO website in the research tab.

This week we are looking at mentorship with Alexandre Poppe, Professeur agrégé de clinique/Clinical Associate Professor Hôpital Notre-Dame, Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal

1. What makes a good mentor?

There exist many qualities that can distinguish a great mentor from a good one. These can be broadly divided into two categories: personal and professional.

Personal qualities:

Approachability: a mentee must feel at ease interacting with a mentor. A respectful exchange of ideas should be the norm and mentors should be accessible to mentees whether by e-mail, telephone or through in-person meetings.

Honesty: a mentor should forthright and respectful towards their mentees, both in outlining their expectations and in providing feedback. Honesty should also define a mentor’s approach towards academics, collegial relationships and research.

Generosity: effective mentoring requires selflessness, with the needs of the mentee at times superseding those of the mentor. Guidance, advice and teaching should not be regarded as taxing chores but as privileged exercises in gregariousness.

Dependability: a mentee should be able to rely on a mentor for relevant and timely advice and feedback.

Work-life balance: in leading by example, an effective mentor should demonstrate to mentees that academic success need not be attained at the expense of a fulfilling life outside of work. 

Passion: a mentor must be able to transmit enthusiasm and excitement to their mentees, and this is only possible if that same passion drives the mentor’s actions.

Professional qualities:

Expertise: It almost goes without saying that a mentee should seek a mentor who possesses knowledge, skills and foresightedness in the field of study that a mentee wishes to develop.

Academic success: A mentor’s expertise is largely, but by no means entirely, exemplified by their academic productivity in a given field. Impactful publications, prominent teaching and administrative roles and overall leadership in a field of interest characterize such success.

Effective local research infrastructure: To effectively support young researchers without much prior experience, a mentor should be well versed in the nitty-gritty of study design and the trials of obtaining research funding. Being surrounded by an effective team of fellow researchers, biostatisticians and administrative support staff allows the mentor to more easily connect the mentee with collaborators who know the ropes and thereby maximizes their chance of early success.

Regional, national and international connections: The three aforementioned qualities often allow a successful mentor to develop national and international clout and the resulting contacts that allow them to participate in collaborative projects the world over. A mentee can benefit from these global networks by partaking in research collaborations, knowledge exchange and travel as well as by fostering relationships with likeminded peers that will last throughout the mentee’s entire career.

Prof. Alexandre Poppe

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