Mentors and Mentees: Grow Your Career through SOT Mentor Match

By Souvarish Sarkar posted 06-17-2021 15:51


Finding a compatible mentor for various aspects of life is critical for a successful professional career. At times, as undergraduates, graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows, we get stuck in our day-to-day lives in the laboratory and forget to think about the next step. At these times, having a mentor outside the laboratory helps us gain perspective and move forward with our careers. The SOT Mentor Match program is an innovative approach for enabling students and trainees at different stages of their careers to find a mentor who is an expert in the field and/or career path they are pursuing or are considering in the future.

I found out about the SOT Mentor Match program through direct emails from SOT. Through this program, I was matched with Dr. Pam Lein and Dr. Jason Cannon as mentors. These matches were based on various criteria I input into the program to identify a shortlist of potential mentors. Individuals who have signed up to be a mentor in the program have a genuine interest in the development of the next generation of scientists. Networking with potential mentors and having an open dialogue with them will help in finding an appropriate mentor. I approached both Dr. Lein and Dr. Cannon during the SOT Annual Meeting to discuss career plans and receive their input.

Once you identified a potential mentor, from experience, these tips helped me in developing a successful mentor-mentee relationship.

  • Compatibility: Just like any relationship, compatibility plays an essential role in the mentor-mentee relationship. Having a solid foundation and laying down the expectations for this relationship is crucial. Once matched with a mentor, setting up a phone/video call to discuss these expectations goes a long way. It is the mentee’s responsibility to take the initiative to get the ball rolling. It is important to let the mentor know your future plans and keep them in the loop. Having a short presentation about your work may also help the mentor to get to know you and your career goals/challenges.
  • Time commitment: The mentor-mentee relationship requires a time commitment from both the mentor and the mentee. It should not be treated as means of getting references. After the first meeting, set up a possible time for the next meeting. Keep your mentor updated about your goals and achievements so they can provide the most useful advice regarding your professional development.
  • Ask, and ask again: If you need help from a mentor, please don’t hesitate to ask. Mentors can be busy and may have missed an email or two. That does not mean they are ignoring you. Sending reminder emails after giving enough time will help you keep in contact with your mentor.
  • Pay it forward: Under the current situation, it is vital to pay it forward wherever we can. Having a great mentor is a blessing. Hence, learn from your mentor how to be a good mentor. Moreover, try to mentor the undergraduates or new graduate students who may require mentoring outside the lab.

Until now, my experience with both Dr. Lein and Dr. Cannon as my mentors has been nothing less than excellent. Being an advanced postdoctoral fellow, I am looking to transition into an independent position, and both my mentors have helped me in the process. Dr. Lein has advised me on potential grant applications, job applications, and career development strategies. On the other hand, Dr. Cannon has provided critical inputs on various future job application materials, like research statements, resumes, and CVs. This program has not only helped me grow as a scientist but has helped me learn how to be a good mentor.

SOT mentor Pam Lein shares the following about the SOT Mentor Match program: “The SOT Mentor Match is an outstanding opportunity for established toxicologists to encourage and support the next generation of toxicologists across all employment sectors. It is easy to enroll, and the program is designed to ensure that no one mentor is overly tasked with mentoring obligations. My mentoring experience with Souvarish has been very satisfying, in part because Souvarish is a role model mentee, taking the initiative to contact me when he has specific questions, but also because I feel that I am having a positive impact on his professional development. I strongly encourage all members of SOT who are interested in ‘paying it forward’ to sign up today to become an SOT mentor.”