Top Ten Tips
1. Know your faculty mentors’ areas of research and professional interests.
This is helpful when asking a faculty member to serve as a mentor – you can point out similar areas of interest.
2. Be respectful.
If you do not hear back from a mentor or advisor, send them a gentle email reminder of what you need. Since email inboxes can become unmanageable mid-semester, don’t forget to pick up the phone if you don’t hear back, or stop by an advisor’s office (check early to see if/when “office hours” exist; if you are really stuck, then try asking the departmental secretary or administrative assistants when this particular mentor tends to be around!) Be confident that mentors, and advisors want to help, but respect that they are busy.
3. Thank your mentors and advisors.
INDS advisors work with 20 to 50 students, teach courses, write grants and articles, advise student organizations, serve on search committees and task forces etc. Faculty do all that plus engage in research projects and mentor graduate students.
4. Take notes at meetings and send a follow up summary note within 24 hrs. after the meeting.
Your summary email should include something like, “It is my understanding that you would like to see the following revisions _______. I will send a revised version by ___(date).”
5. Incorporate faculty suggestions into your writing, and summarize the changes you made.
This summary of changes is helpful if anyone asks to see evidence that they were heard and acted upon.
6. Proofread before sending a new version.
Too much is at stake to let a little carelessness or “corner-cutting” strain your relationship with your mentors by making them feel that their time and effort is not being taken seriously.
7. Prepare for meetings by:
a. Emailing documents in advance.
b. Asking if faculty and advisors need hardcopies.
c. Arriving with copies for everyone who needs them (including yourself!). If unable to print, arrive early and ask to have copied in the INDS office.
8. Be proactive.
When you arrive for a triangle meeting, ask what needs to be done. Do we need coffee? More copies of the proposal? Hot water for tea?
9. Be open to suggestions rather than defensive.
The purpose of meetings and mentoring is to broaden your knowledge about your area of interest, not to defend your writing style. Use interactions with faculty as an opportunity to discover new authors, journals, methods, and ways to organize your writing. Paraphrase what you think you heard in the meeting, and be prepared to say “I don’t quite understand – could you please explain?”
10. Set realistic deadlines, and stick to them.
If you are stuck and/or unable to meet a deadline, DON’T “DISAPPEAR.” Instead, ask for help from the writing center, peers, and/or your advisor and then explain to faculty what you are doing to move forward, and ask for a new deadline. Your mentors will respect this, because they will feel respected.
Much of what is written above reduces to one, simple theme: take the time and effort to create in your mentors the impression that their professional expertise is being taken seriously by another professional (you!)
By Steven McAlpine