You will learn a great deal from your coursework, but the most profound learning will occur through your relationships with faculty as a graduate student. The most successful graduate students recognize this and cultivate relationships in graduate school, most notably with their mentors and advisors. It is worth learning how to maximize your mentoring relationship because students who lack this knowledge tend to receive less mentoring and tend to be less satisfied. What makes for successful mentoring relationships? Choosing a mentor who is a good match to you is an important first step in establishing a productive relationship but it does not ensure that your professional needs will be met. There is no one piece of advice more important than this. Good mentees are not passive. They don’t rely on their mentors to bestow knowledge and experiences on them. Instead they act as collaborators, are active in the learning process, and reflect on their experiences. Successful graduate students have good communication skills. They speak up to ask for what they need. They ask questions and ensure that they are understood. Open communication is an important part of any relationship, especially the mentor-student partnership. Identify your goals for your education and for your relationship with your mentor.

Get the most from your school mentor

Speak with your mentor about his or her expectations of you and what assistance will be provided early on. Share your views and speak up about any mismatch between your mentor’s expectations and your needs. You will be waiting for a very long time in case you wait for your mentor to contact you to check in or schedule a meeting. Successful graduate students understand that it is up to them to ensure that their professional needs are met. Faculty have many students and obligations that offer them little time to wonder why they haven’t seen you in a while – or to even realize that they haven’t seen you. Moreover, initiating contact to request meetings or fill your mentor in on your progress shows that you are responsible and care about your own professional development. Regular one-on-one meetings will ensure that you receive undivided attention and can discuss your progress on goals. Depending on your standing and needs you might meet weekly, every other week, or monthly. Expect your needs to change with your workload and projects.  For example, you will likely meet more often than when you are collecting data or simply taking coursework as you write up research or plan your dissertation. Plan what you would like to discuss with your mentor. Write down your ideas and your agenda. Be prepared to give updates on your work and to ask questions. In case it departs from your usual agenda or is related to a new idea or set of research findings, be prepared to give updates on your work and to ask questions. Consider sending a brief email with your agenda. The more you prepare the more you will get out of these meetings with your mentor. Prepare well.