During the course of our lives, there are a number of key individuals that disproportionately shape who we become. Be they teachers, parents, bosses, or friends, these individuals provide the guidance and advice that helps us move forward, to achieve whatever is next. Any of those individuals can be Mentors, people trusted to keep us pointed in the right direction. By extension, Mentoring becomes an important process by which we learn and grow, eager to face the challenges and opportunities brought to us by our academic, professional, or personal lives.
Finding a mentor depends largely on what you’re looking to get out of the mentoring process. Often, a good mentor will be one with similar interests, experience in your field, and a measure of understanding of your situation and characteristics. In an academic setting, faculty can often become the most accessible and most useful mentors around. Working with mentors can often be a good way of being exposed to new experiences, learning new skills, and making the connections necessary for success in the future. Mentors want to help you, and taking advantage of their more extensive knowledge and experience base is in your interest.
All of us seek to become leaders, whether in our social groups or professionally. Good leadership goes hand in hand with a number of personality and behavior traits that foment and enhance a collaborative environment. Leadership is not so much about technical excellence as it is about creating a space where competent individuals can effectively work together. The traits that enable that include a sincere respect for people and excellent communicative skills, as well as a uniting vision for the direction of the project and its people.
Feedback is also one of the most powerful tools any leader can wield. Without effective feedback, improvement over time is replaced by stagnation. However, feedback can often be perceived as negative due to its potential to sound harsh and attacking. Hence, it is important to consider cultural context in the feedback process, tailoring the style of feedback to the individual receiving it.Someone from direct cultures used to open criticism could not acknowledge the tempered, qualified feedback present in other cultures. Conversely, an individual unfamiliar or unaware of open criticism would feel attacked and hurt by such feedback. Though critically important, feedback also runs significant risks of being ineffective or culturally insensitive; a good leader can tailor the feedback to the individual, seeking to maximize the behavior change while minimizing misunderstandings and distress.