Mentoring relationships

Hi all,

I have recently attended a webinar on developing mentoring relationships with people outside of your supervisory circle, typically to ask them for advice on your career/PhD etc. It can take many shapes or forms, but generally is informal. I suppose we are all peer-mentoring each other here on this forum :smiley: , but I was wondering if you had experiences with this and if so, if you would maybe like to share how you set up a mentoring relationship and what you got out of it?

I am also just curious to know how common this really is, during that webinar it seemed like everyone was doing this but I don’t really know students around me who have sought out mentorship like this, or maybe they wouldn’t call it that or do so in private. I’m often still struggling to ask my supervisors for help because I am worried of being too much of a burden, so asking time from a “stranger” who likely is also a stressed-out overworked academic makes me a bit nervous, but it sounds like good things really can come out of it.

Ideally this would come about organically of course, maybe after meeting someone at a conference and having a nice conversation, but during the webinar it was suggested you could just reach out to people over email (or perhaps via your supervisor). I am probably overthinking this way too much but I would be unsure how to start this conversation (how much do you butter up someone beforehand, when would you bring up meeting frequency/goals for the mentorship etc.).

Honestly, I find navigating this more daunting than navigating my romantic relationship lol

For a better description and some examples of mentorship, please see Dr Anna Henschel’s column here: Why seek a single mentor when you can have three — or more
doi: Why seek a single mentor when you can have three — or more

Thanks all!

Hi Laura,

I agree having mentors or peer groups would be so helpful. I met a lady also doing a PhD, totally different field to me but it is helpful to have someone just to say “i don’t know what I’m doing”. I don’t want to say that to my supervisor.


Hi Laura.
Just being direct. If you see an opportunity like that, you should go and talk to them in person or if you have their email to reach out, please do so.
Because I personally have such experiences. And they’re super helpful too. Most of them feel very happy about it too. If they have time they’ll definitely reply.

Perhaps you don’t have to butter up things. Just be honest, give them the right picture, So they know where to help!

(When I was just starting my masters, I mean I was little right… So at that time I was very interested in a research group conducted by a Max Planck Institute. So I just wanted to know some things so I dropped an email to the group leader who conduct the research and supervise PhD students in that group. And after vacation he replied me immediately and now it’s been more than a year I know him and communicate occasionally regarding subject matter and for some other scholarship programs. And he really helps me out whenever I have questions and doubts regarding my studies and in research. So I think that bond is really nice.
So if you can build up a very natural relationship with other mentors, that has a flow, that’s be very important for you I feel. So yeah… :slight_smile: :blush:
Always stick on to your questions and feel free to express whatever unclear. Soon you’ll sort it out.)