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    Five Reasons to Find a Mentor

    Is there a teacher, either in medicine or another field, who has made a difference in your life? Like a teacher, a good mentor is a goldmine of wisdom, encouragement, and guidance and can positively impact your career, your leadership skills, and your ability to respond to the demands of medicine. If you don’t have a mentor, here are five reasons to seek one out.

    Mentors motivate and inspire.

    A good mentor has “genuine and infectious enthusiasm” for their work and calling. Let’s face it, a career in medicine is hard. There are times when you need a lift and a positive vision for what your practice can be. Learning from a physician you admire helps you remember why you entered the field in the first place, and refocuses your energies on what you value most.

    Mentors promote lifelong learning.

    If you have the right mentor, he or she will encourage learning by committing to self-improvement as well. Anyone who gives the impression that they know it all is not mentor material! A good mentor will share the secrets to their successes, but also the lessons from their failures, which provides valuable modeling and perspective for your own career.

    Mentors act as a sounding board.

    In residency and in practice, many of the physicians you look up to also have influence over your career. It’s best to choose a mentor outside of your chain of advancement, so that their advice and perspective is entirely non-threatening and objective. You should feel freedom to share ideas, concerns, and doubts, and feel no fear of reprisal.

    Mentors understand and support you.

    A mentor-mentee relationship should be mutually agreed-upon and reciprocal. As you grow in your own profession, your interaction with your mentor may develop into more of a peer relationship. That’s okay! A mentor brings insights that continue to be valuable through the arc of one’s career. You never really outgrow the need for mentoring.

    Mentors widen your network.

    Anyone you respect enough to choose as a mentor will likely have a thriving network of associates. Though you should never count on advancement through a mentor, they can often point you in the right direction, introduce you to the right people, and help you find the right resources.

    Some caveats about mentors: The best mentors are found, not assigned. And often, it’s a mentor who finds you! In addition, you may need more than one mentor. Lastly, don’t assume your mentor must “look like you.” Finding a mentor in your underrepresented group is a plus, especially when it comes to dealing with bias and stereotype threat. But if you look up to someone and they show an interest in your career, they will probably be a great mentor. If they support you, encourage you, and advocate for you, you’ve found gold.

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