Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Develop Your Own Mentoring Network

The old notion of having a mentor to help guide you along your career path is outdated.

Instead, you need to proactively develop a well-rounded team of mentors with complementary knowledge skills and abilities. In fact, the Harvard Business Review says 

Forget Mentors: Employ a Personal Board of Directors

According to a HBR article, "What you need instead is a board of directors for your career, a group of people you consult regularly to get advice and feedback. There’s no need to hold meetings or even inform each person of his or her status as a board member — but you do need to select the right people and stay in touch." Importantly - your "board" should have members from within and beyond the academy. 

What might this look like? News anchor Betty Liu suggests that you need four types of mentors in life to succeed. As a graduate student, you should add one more: a Collaborator.

  1. The Coach
  2. The Connector
  3. The Cheerleader
  4. The Challenger
  5. The Collaborator

A similar article in Forbes describes The Seven People You Need to Succeed in Business Today: The Champion; The Executive Sponsor; The Devil's Advocate; The Executor; The Quant; The Social Butterfly and The Community Manager. It's worth a quick read.

Getting Started

What to look for: Strive for diversity in background, disciplinary expertise, perspective and career stage. You'll need people around you who listen well and will challenge you to consider alternative ways of thinking. Creativity is good. So is candor. Remember: you are seeking essential advice that will help you network, build skills, learn from mistakes and advance in your career.     

Where to find mentors on campus: Start with your academic adviser or research mentor. Also consider other faculty members in your degree and related programs and those on your thesis or dissertation committee. Is there an administrator you admire? Next consider professional staff who direct diversity programs, career services or professional development programs. Think about where you need to build skills e.g., leadership, business, evaluation or communication? Head across campus to connect with professionals in those areas.

Where to find mentors off campus: LinkedIn is a great place to start. Find Mizzou alumni who are in positions similar to what you will be seeking. Tap into the local government and businesses to find leaders who might be willing to mentor you. Your current adviser or mentor may know of other people you might contact.

Final bit of advice

Genuine relationships are built over time, on a foundation of trust and reciprocity. That said, most mentors understand that you will need more from them than they will need from you. Be mindful of mentor's time. Be punctual. Listen to learn. Don't argue. Say thanks. Offer them specific examples of how you applied what learned from them. Think about ways that you may be able to "give back"  - like volunteering your time at their favor charity.